How to Fish “Blind” During the Spawn
Spring bass fishing is very popular among sportsmen, and it seems that this time of year, everything revolves around the spawn. The 1-2 week window when bass move shallow and “fan” off small patches called beds. When this happens, the male and female fish become very defensive of that area and will attack anything that gets too close. This is a big attraction for a lot of anglers. To visually see and tease a fish into biting a lure is a thrilling experience, no doubt. But what happens when mother nature throws its worst at us? High winds, cloud cover, spring rains that muddy the water to the like of coffee with heavy creamer. When the weather does not cooperate and makes it impossible to see that trophy bass, is it time to throw in the towel? Blaming a bad day on the conditions is a common out.. or you could fish “blind”. That’s right, you don’t need to visually look at a bass on a “bed” to catch fish this spring. As a full-time fishing guide on one of the world’s best bass lakes, here is how I approach the spawn when spring weather gives me the cold shoulder.
First, Find ‘em
Spring is a very complicated code to crack in the bass fishing world. Weather, water conditions and the moon all play a role in what the bass are doing that day, hour, even minute! Spawn, as we anglers refer to it, has three main stages – Pre-spawn, Spawn and Post-Spawn. Spawning stages is a whole other topic fit for another article and time, but for the sake of understanding fish movements, here is a crash course. When the fish leave their winter hideouts, the main objective is to lay their eggs. For this to happen, bass need above 60-degree water temps (roughly), a full moon and stable weather conditions (and water levels). Until this occurs, fish will stage just outside spawning flats waiting until the time is right (Pre-spawn). After the bass lay their eggs, the male will stay and guard “fry” or newly hatched, for a week before heading for deep water and food (Post-Spawn.) It is important to remember that there will not be just one 2-week window during the spawn, rather several waves of spawning bass throughout the spring and a full moon will bring each wave to the shallows. This means Pre-Spawn, Spawning and Post-Spawn fish can be present in the same areas at the same time. As an angler, one must take in all the conditions and variables present to figure out what stage the bass are in that day (or multiple stages.) But once you have identified the areas bass are holding in, it’s not uncommon for conditions to work against you.
Slow Down, and Give ‘em a Reason to Bite
Rarely will conditions line up where spawning bass are the only option, most of the time you have Pre and Post-Spawners in the mix, and this is when fishing “blind” can really produce. Say the water in the lake you’re fishing is super muddy, or the wind blows hard and sight fishing is just a no-go; you can still fish those same areas but without “poling down” on one specific fish and teasing it for hours to bite. Instead, back-off those areas and fish them with slow moving baits like weightless stick baits, or light-weight Texas rigged plastics. By fishing slow, this gives you a chance to catch spawning fish without the threat of a boat overhead, and the possibility to hook a big Pre-Spawn cruiser or Post-Spawn, “fry-guarder”. You don’t need to see a fish on a bed for this technique to work, and it’s easy for new anglers to catch on to. All it takes is patience and persistence.
The Rhyme and Reason to Randomness
Fishing this style may appear to be “bank beating” or randomly fishing through an area, however, it’s not. There is a method to the madness. Every body of water has structure and cover of some sort. As a hard-fast rule, bass need a hard bottom to spawn on. This could be rock, gravel, stumps – even Lily Pad roots. There will also be a preferred depth or structure where spawning bass will congregate, like a shallow ditch or weed edge. Once you have identified the structure and cover the bass are making beds on, focus on those areas exclusively. This is a slow-moving technique and is best to spend your time in high percentage areas.
Presentation is also important and can be specific to what bass you want to catch. Many times, if I am targeting big female bass (Pre-Spawn or Spawn) I will fish a Texas rigged Strike King Rage lizard slowly across the bottom. Big bass can’t seem to resist a big lizard and it seems like the smaller males are intimidated by such a large profile. If you’re looking to load the boat with keepers, often I will fish a weightless Strike King Ocho in suspected spawning areas. The Ocho seems to get a lot of bites from fish in every stage of the spawn.
For almost all my soft plastics this time of year, I use the same set up. A Temple Fork Outfitters GTS C 735-1 casting rod and 17lb P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon. This setup will handle any rig you wish to throw in any kind of cover you may find on a spawning flat. Rarely do I go down in line size, but if I do, it is because the fish are spooky. Often this happens when the water is clear and calm; conditions under which most anglers sight fish.
A Word on Conservation
By no means am I one of those anglers that wishes to bar everyone from fishing this time of year. Some arguments out there seem to get a bit ridiculous. However, do keep in mind what the spawn is all about. The bass are reproducing and raising little basses to populate your home lake and keep the cycle of life going. Each year is a generation of fish that will grow to be a trophy bass one day. If you choose to fish for bass on beds, keep in mind that the fish are doing their thing and while teasing a bedding fish into biting can be fun, harassing that fish day after day after day can interrupt some important things. For those of us that fish tournaments, we are mostly concerned with boating the 5 biggest bass however legally necessary. If you do livewell spawning fish, take care of them (not that we wouldn’t otherwise) but make every effort to ensure your catch is in good health. Don’t over ice, fill your livewell tanks full, keep fresh water running… again a topic for another time.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this article and can use some of this information to help you catch more bass this spring. Remember, we cannot change the weather, but we can change our approach. For more articles like this be sure to check out my blog. This spring has been very productive for my clients and I. If you or someone you know are interested in fishing Lake Fork or Lake Athens, be sure to give me a call (509) 309-5252 and book a guided fishing trip! Thank you so much for reading, I hope to fish with y’all soon!