Getting Up to Speed on Pre-Spawn Smallmouth Bass
March 7, 2018 by Don Manning
Right after the ice is gone is the best time to fish for smallies. What makes this time of year fantastic smallmouth bass fishing? The smallmouths are preparing themselves for the spawn.
Pre-spawn smallmouth bass fishing is phenomenal because fish are bulking up for their landmark time of the year, which is the spawn. Remember, these fish have had little to eat throughout winter and they are hungry. No better combination to put fish in the boat.
Where to Find Pre-Spawn Smallmouth Bass
Weather and water conditions in the spring are highly variable. Water can be clear one day, stained the next. Weather can be sunny and 60s and then below freezing the next day. For pre-spawn smallmouth bass, this means they seek out areas with less variability.
In rivers, smallies will move away from the main river channel they have been occupying throughout winter and gravitate toward shorelines where there is less current, more cover and warmer water. One of the best smallmouth bass locations to fish in the spring is tight to the shore in protected areas when the water is high and muddy on rivers.
For lakes, smallmouth bass locations vary more directly based on water temperature. They start out in deeper water where they have wintered. Pre-spawn smallmouth bass then move increasingly more shallow, using structure to rest, as water temperatures increase. Ultimately they reach spawning staging sites near shallow flats when the water reaches the 50 degree mark.
How to Catch Pre-Spawn Smallmouth Bass
Water temperature is key, obviously, as it dictates where smallmouths will be during the pre-spawn. If you can find them, you can catch them this time of year.
Spring smallmouth lures do not have to be precise like other times of the year. Smallies will eat anything that remotely resembles food in pre-spawn mode. Also, fishing tackle choices can very. Anything from braided fishing line to any style rod will work for smallmouth bass fishing this time of year. The fish are not picky and neither should you be. Find them and catch them.
Smallmouth Fishing Techniques by Pre-Spawn Stage
As water temperatures reach the mid 40s, smallmouths start their pre-spawn move from deeper water. Males are the first to move. Males are typically smaller fish, which will start to make their nests for the females prior to their arrival. At certain times you can catch 30 or 40 smallmouths in an area, but all in that 13- to 14-inch range. Larger females will be following these males from deeper water and to catch them, you need to fish slow. Fishing with hair jigs and small grubs in rivers or using a Ned rig in lakes are all killer smallmouth bass baits for pre-spawn fish.
When water temperatures reach the upper 40s and start to crest 50-degrees, smallmouth will congregate in staging areas. These staging areas are often larger boulders just offshore in rivers and medium depth, thick structure near spawning flats in lakes. These staging areas hold bass that are more inclined to chase a smallmouth bass bait. Throw lipless crankbaits like Rat-L-Traps in crayfish and natural colors as well as tubes when smallmouth bass fishing these pre-spawn staging areas.
Top Pre-Spawn Bass Fishing Lures
Water Temperature: 38- to 45-degrees
Finesse fishing techniques and slow presentations.
Smallmouth bass baits with a little more movement.
Search and reaction baits are more productive.
Fishing the Moment Before the Spawn
Staging areas are adjacent to spawning grounds in most cases. Big female smallies wait in these same areas until the water temperature is just right to move up and spawn. Find these areas and you will be on to something. Make sure you take a mental note of these spots, because they will produce big fish year after year. As soon as the water warms up to the mid 50’s and low 60’s, these big females will start to move and the spawn is on.
The spawn occurs when the water temperatures reach the upper 50s and low 60s and you have a full moon. This is when actual spawning begins. Females deposit eggs into roughly 3-foot diameter nests created by the males in shallow water. The best pre-spawn bass fishing lures at the point just prior to spawning are reaction baits. Lures like jerkbaits, crankbaits and spinnerbaits for bass fishing are all effective right before smallmouth bass begin to spawn.
Pre-spawn smallmouth bass fishing can be some of the best fishing of the year. Smallies are hungry and will bite almost anything, however, conditions are tough and finding fish can be difficult in the spring. Get on some fish and catch them by expanding on these smallmouth bass pre-spawn facts as you fish this spring.