The Spawn to Post Spawn:
Catching those Big Bass
by Bruce Callis
Bass fishing can be one of the exciting sports around and it can also be one of the most frustrating too. For as much as we thing we know about bass and their habits, the bass still can make the best angler look foolish on some days. They can be doing one thing in the morning and by lunchtime, doing something totally different. Learning is something we should never stop doing. Every time we hit the water, we should be learning, even if we think we know everything.
Depending on where you are and the water temperature, bass are either moving up to spawn, are spawning, or have spawned. Or they could be in all of these stages at the same time. It makes it challenging to say the least. But let’s talk post spawn fishing. Once the females deposit their eggs, generally they will move off the beds, leaving the male bass there to protect the young eggs and fry. The females will pull off out into deeper water where they will rest and seek to feed up. Once the fry start to move off the beds, the male bass will pull of the bed also and the bluegills will then start to move into the same areas to do the same thing, spawn. But what about the bass, where do they go?
While the females will not be as big at this time, as they have spent a lot of energy and deposited those all important eggs of life, it is the time that they start to look to re-energize and feed up. They will pull back to the outskirts of the spawning areas. Generally the same areas that they left to move up to spawn. They will be looking to regain energy and that means they need to feed up. The bonus is that you can also find those big females that haven’t spawned yet if you are early enough in the post-spawn. But they aren’t going to stay there long, as the bluegills start to move up, they will be looking for that big, easy meal. And ambush points outside the spawning areas are prime locations to locate these big females.
We know at some point they are going to make the move to deeper water, but that is once the water starts to really warm up. And we also know that some bass are going to stay on shallow targets with some deeper water nearby all year long. But now is the time to target those areas close to the spawning areas. Look for the bass to be staging along ambush points, such as Cypress trees, docks, lay downs, shoreline points, and stumps. And also look for areas that have a faster drop into deeper water. The faster the drop, usually means safety for bass to escape to if they feel threatened. But vertical cover like docks and standing timber, is a prime location to look for the bigger females. Some really big females will always slide out to the vertical cover and suspend there. Sometimes they will stay there for up to 2 weeks before making a move.
Targeting these bass can require some thought and at times, some finesse tactics. It can be as simple as working a buzz bait around a dock or laydown, or as finicky as working a small worm around the area with a 1/64 ounce weight. It is also the time we need to remember that we can’t force them to bite our lure. We can work an area with a given bait and catch a few and then come back through that same area again and use a totally different bait and load up with some bigger bass. We also know that with today’s electronics, we can see so much more. But it is some basic knowledge that most of us will be relying upon to target and catch most of these bass.
If you have a good fish finder with great maps, then use the map feature to find those contours that are close together, especially steep drops, and key on those areas that have a laydown or something nearby. If you are not on the water, but are bank fishing or in a small boat without a fish finder, you can use something like the Navionics app on your cell phone to find them on a lot of water. If they don’t have one for your body of water, you can check on the community edits to see if someone has mapped the body of water. There are also castable sonar devices now that will help for bank anglers. Deeper, iBobber, Garmin Striker Castable Sonar, Lowrance FishHunter to name a few units that you can purchase. You can attach them to a rod and reel and cast them into a desired area and see what is there. They can also be used in a small boat as castable or hanging off the boat.
Spring is also the time of changing weather conditions. Cold fronts can really wreck havoc on fishing. Bass can get lockjaw and move tight to cover, or out to a little deeper water. Catching fish will usually be a little more difficult, but not impossible. We just have to adapt and change to meet the conditions head on. And usually, it is by going finesse. Downsizing your lure, going from a 6 inch to a 4 inch worm, can be the difference of finding the bite or missing it. Be ready if you are fishing behind a cold front to make those changes.
Now that we have an idea of where the bass may be, what baits are we going to use to land them? There are so many choices on the market, but the best advice I ever got was from a fellow angler. He said to use what you have confidence in. Don’t go out drop-shotting if you don’t have confidence in it. Let me rephrase that, or clarify it. You may have no confidence in a drop shot, but don’t count it out either. But in general, use what you love to do and you know will land you fish. One of my buddies lives and breathes by the jig. He is always going to have 4 rods set up to fish a jig no matter what the water conditions and weather. Why? Because he has confidence in them to always land him a bass. My confidence bait that I know will always land me a bass is a stick worm, be it the Power Team Lures Sick Stick or the Missile Baits “The 48”, I know I can catch a bass. It may not always be the biggest bass, but I know it will be a keeper.
A crankbait is one of those baits I have confidence in. I am going to throw one no matter where I am. It just depends on the location and depth as to what I will use. If they are up in the water column, I like to throw a Fat John 60 or a Little John from SPRO and John Crews. These baits cover that shallower depths and will catch big bass. If they are deeper, I will move up to something that runs deeper, like the Little John 50MD or maybe the new Little John Micro DD 45 that dives 8-10 feet. Or it might be a Hunter 65 SB square bill in a stump field. I know that they will catch bass, and big bass, and I have confidence in them.
One tool that probably isn’t thrown as much as it use to be is a spinnerbait. They catch bass, and they catch big bass year round. A lot of anglers have replaced them in their arsenal of baits with the chatterbait, or some type of bladed jig. But, now is a great time to be using them as well. They can be work around any type of cover and at any depth. And a trailer can change the action and presentation in so many ways.
Sometimes you may need to go small and use a more subtle presentation to get the bass to bite. Now, going small isn’t necessarily a matter of a small bait. It could be using as light a weight as possible. A 7 inch Finicky Tickler on a 3/0 light wire Gamakatsu hook with a small 1/64 ounce split shot crimped to the line at the nose of the bait worked up around cover can be just the ticket. It has the same characteristics as a Senko, but it’s lighter and better for pinpoint casting on a spinning rod. The secret is to let it fall to the bottom. It is also a very skipable bait that can be worked up under docks and low lying limbs. And don’t pass up using a jig. They can be worked anywhere. And especially around laydowns. Don’t be afraid to go light with them either. Micro jigs land big bass, especially around heavily pressured areas. A small trailer can be added to increase the size and change the fall rate.
There are so many options as to baits you can use at this time, and they can all be the right choice at the right time. Remember, use those baits you have confidence in, but don’t be afraid to try something totally new. The secret is to learn each day on the water, to never stop trying techniques that we aren’t great at, and have fun doing it all. I take my fishing seriously, but that doesn’t mean I can’t laugh at myself. Go catch some of those huge bass!!