The four most fundamental components to bass fishing are intertwined in weather patterns, water temperature, time of year, and what types of covering and structure are available. The time of year is most key when determining what areas to target bass and what lures and baits to use. Bass fishing can be segmented into Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. These season are then divided into two windows and in each type of window, bass will reposition on different types of structure and in different depths of water in the areas they are living in.
In the Spring, bass are mainly focused on laying their eggs in shallow water, all of there movements are in either preparing for the spawn, laying their eggs, or protecting their eggs as they hatch. I am going to focus on the pre spawn season and speak to the patterns, movements, and nature of bass during this timeframe that lead up to the anglers much anticipated SPAWN SEASON. In order to determine where the bass are going, we first need to talk about where they are coming from any why.
Leading up to the pre spawn we have the late winter period. We tend to think of bass in their winter pattern when the water temperature is between 45 and 50 degrees. In this time, bass are still living in the deepest water in their area, because water temperatures are cold and bass are focused mainly on feeding up for the spawn later in the year. The winter pattern consists of deep main lake areas and deep channels. Bass typically don’t venture outside of these areas until the water turns up to the 50 degree mark. At this time, they start to move to what’s called a staging area, which can be primary points, or even secondary points depending on the water temperature. Staging areas are areas where bass can feed up before the spawn. Keep your eyes peeled for points, ledges, drains, are are areas that bass can use to ambush crawfish and other prey. Bass are predators in nature, so they tend to gravitate toward structure to give them a focal point advantage to target their prey.
As the water continues on an incline and up trend, bass will begin to move into their spawning areas. Spawning areas are usually flat, shallow parts of the lake and are often less than 5ft deep. These areas are often found in the backs of creeks, bays, or around large islands. Once the water temperatures rise to around 50 degrees, that’s when bass begin to migrate to their spawning areas. This is their natural progression and once the water gets above 60 degrees, they usually begin to make their beds for the spawn. The wind and air temperature also play a vital role on what spawning areas and pockets they choose to make their beds in. They will often find pockets that are protected from a cold North wind. A spawning flat can be a pocket, or event on the backside of an island that is protected from a main river or lake channel.
When the water temperatures are nearing or hit around 50 degrees, bass will begin their migration to their spawning areas. The pre spawn is usually viewed as when the water temperatures are between 50-60 degrees, and bass are moving from their late winter areas to their spawning areas. There are exceptions to this water temperature guideline depending on the area of the country you are living in, and the exact timing of the pre spawn period can vary depending on the species of bass you are targeting, as well as your geographical location.
Bass often stop at obvious structures between the main lake areas and their spawning areas, these areas are defined as primary points, secondary points, or other structures along their pathway to the spawning pockets. It’s important to look at a Navionics topographic map of the floor and contour of the lake or body of water that you are fishing, and here’s why. If you have a point such as a primary or secondary point, the main lake channel sometimes runs right up to that point which allows the bass to come up and feed when the sun is shining but also allows them to drop off into a deep channel when there’s a cold front.
Pre spawn bass will stage on different coverings and structure depending on what type of body of water you are fishing. For example, once the water heats up to around 55 degrees, bass might stage around Cypress Trees in about 3-5 feet of water. Each body of water has structure and covering unique to that area, so bass will form patterns around what type of structure is provided to them depending on the time of the year and water temperature. You can also target flats that are off shore that have slight contour line changes even if it’s just a 2-3 foot change. Rip rap or chunk rock banks are always going to hold fish in the pre spawn. You can also keep your eyes out for transitions, which is when the land topography changes from one composition, to another. i.e. Chunk rock to sand.
A large part of our success as an angler is how focused we are when it comes to environmental conditions and factors, which all take precedence when determining bass patterns. Taking the time to learn about these bass patterns and their natural progression through the seasons will be key to understanding their movements during pre spawn and spawn season. Lures and baits also follow suit when it comes to the time of year and land topography in that it changes just as much as the seasons do. Trying understanding how bass progress through the year and having the knowledge of your surroundings, will take you from being someone who bass fishes, to being a true bass fisherman, or fisherwomen. Study. Stay at it. Slay hard.