By Marc Rogers
The word prespawn creates many different thoughts in the minds of bass anglers. These thoughts depend on where anglers chase their prey, as this seasonal stage is different in each region of North America. Water temperature and hours of sunlight are the most dominating factors causing bass to reach the prespawn stage.
As spring approaches, the air temperatures begin reaching into the 70-degree range and this triggers many anglers to hit their favorite waters. However, air temperatures change rapidly, water temperatures require many days of warm air and sunlight to increase several degrees. Water temperatures also cool rapidly when the sun goes down at night. Warm air and south winds are the ideal situation to warm a body of water. These two factors alone will jump-start the prespawn activity.
When the water reaches the 50-degree range, a lot of activity begins below the water’s surface. The bass begin leaving their deep-water haunts that sustained them throughout the winter and migrate to shallower water. During the bass’ first movements, they generally will not move to the surface or even shallow flats, but begin staging in deep water closely located near shallow water. Beautiful days of sunshine and warm temperatures cause the water to creep into the 50-degree range and trigger anglers to flock to the water. Many times anglers fail to remember the changes under the water do not react to the beautiful spring weather as quickly as the world above the water.
Derek Vahey, Midwest Fishing Tackle Staff Member and a regular on Ozark lakes, says, “I always try to locate water slightly stained and a few degrees warmer than the majority of the lake when locating prespawn bass. I really like the ends of docks sitting close to or over deep channel swings with shallow banks at the back of the docks. These areas are ideal for presenting suspended jerkbaits and finesse jigs.”
When putting together a pattern for prespawn bass it is best to pattern the migration routes instead of particular lures. Anglers should locate creek channels, fencerows, roadbeds and extended points as these are often what bass use as highways to the spawning areas. Prespawn bass activity is likely to be similar for all bass as they move from deep water to the staging areas near shallow water. When the bass’ location is discovered along these migration routes, most of the bass will be in these areas.
Bass are more aggressive than many anglers believe during the prespawn. They will not chase lures like in the summer months but will strike moving baits. Aaron Hunter, Midwest Fishing Tackle Staff Member, reports, “I have found it easier to catch bass that are moving from deep water to shallow water than the other way around. When bass move from deep to shallow they are starting to get aggressive enough to strike slow moving crankbaits and swimming jigs.” Hunter says, “When a cold front passes through and causes the bass to move deeper during the prespawn, fishing can get tough. I really have to slow down when this happens.”
During the prespawn, Hunter says, “I have found that slow moving, deep diving crankbaits are ideal for locating bass. I can cover a lot of water with a crankbaits in a short time, even when exhibiting a slow retrieve. Matching the color of the lure to local baitfish colors is often productive.” In addition, crawdad colors are ideal as bass seek out the slow moving crustaceans for their high protein food source.
Lipless crankbaits are good lures for locating deep bass because anglers can make long casts and count down the lure to a desired depth before starting a retrieve. A lipless crankbaits slowly retrieved along the bottom are big bass lures. Many times these lures are best with a slow lift-and-fall retrieve and allowed to lightly make contact the bottom on the fall.
Once active bass have been caught using crankbaits, jigs are another productive lure for prespawn bass. Jigs can be slowly crawled along the bottom to mimic a crawdad and allows bass more time to strike the lure than crankbaits. A Natural color is best for stained to clear water, but when dingy water is encountered, dark colors like black/blue are quite productive.
Suspending and deep diving jerkbaits are another option for locating prespawn bass. The deep diving models should be presented with a slow retrieve like a crankbait. In addition, these deep divers can suspend at the greater depths to keep the lure in front of the bass longer. When the bass are not deep, a suspending jerkbait is a key to many big, prespawn bass taken. Both jerkbaits models are very productive when left sitting still in the water column for a long period. Vahey reports, “Most of the time I have better luck with shallow running, suspending jerkbaits in the afternoon when fishing prespawn conditions. I believe this is due to the water warming as the day progresses.”
Bass in the prespawn stage have a much smaller strike zone than in the warmer months. Slow moving lures, presented in the strike zone, create some very big stringers of bass in the early spring.