Dissecting the Prespawn - Migration routes and fish behavior crucial to early success
Before we can delve too far into the finer points of fishing the prespawn, we need to quickly define the term. To me, it's one of the most exciting times of the year for bass fishing because this is when fish are heading toward the bank and actively feeding, when 80 percent of the fish in any given body of water will be forced into shallow water of 10 feet or less. During this time of year, we produce some of our biggest stringers of the year. But, technically, prespawn is a state and not a time of year; it defines anytime before the spawn.
Remember not all fish in a body of water spawn or fall into these prespawn patterns at the same time. The spawn begins in the backs of creeks and up the main river arms and in the most protected water that can be found on the lake. Usually, the next section to see spawning activity will be more toward the midsection of the lake in short coves. The last wave is usually your main-lake fish that spawn on tops of ridges and flats.
Prespawn fishing is a time of year when we as anglers need to become very target oriented. I like to flip and pitch with heavy line and big hooksﾗ jigs and other big-bodied baits. My No. 1 bait for prespawn is a black Berkley PowerBait Power Lizard. Since you are fishing in heavy cover, it is important to rig the bait weedless. I like to Texas rig it with a 5/16-ounce slip sinker on 25-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon with a 5/0 extra-wide gap hook. If the water has plenty of color to it, I turn to Spiderwire Stealth, anywhere from 50- to 80-pound test, depending on conditions.
With the Power Lizard, I pitch and flip it in shallow water, targeting sheltered areas on the lake back in pockets and coves, up the river arms fishing in and around targets that I can see with my eyes. Usually, these targets are boat docks, stumps, laydowns and other heavy cover. The reason for this is because the bass, when they move in to spawn, will start setting up, which is basically sunning themselves. All the big females are allowing the warmth of the sun to help incubate their eggs before they are laid. When the actual spawning ritual takes place, they will typically move to the edge of that cover. Largemouth bass, because their eggs will stick to surfaces, will spawn a lot in and around tree stumps even in the treetops. Even if the water is deep, don't overlook submerged treetops during the prespawn and spawn they can hold lots of big fish.
With the bass moving in shallow, look for migration routes, structure at the mouths of bays and creeks where fish are going to spawn. If I can't pinpoint bass in shallow water near these areas, I like to drag a big, ﾾ-ounce pumpkinseed jig tipped with a Berkley PowerBait Chigger Craw through these ditches and channels.
When fishing for bass that have made it out of the ditches and channels and into shallow water, I've noticed that when largemouth bass are the first fish to begin the spawning ritual, you seldom see any bluegill or any other predator of the bass' eggs in the area. When these big females move into spawning areas, they go on a feeding frenzy that is unreal. They want to kill anything they perceive as a threat to their eggs. That's the reason you hear such great fishing reports during the prespawn: anglers catching bass on big spinnerbaits, big jigs, lizards, crankbaits.
Our favorite fisheries have lots of fishable water in them, but knowing where to start and what to throw will help you make the most of your time on the water. The distances these bass travel from their winter haunts to prespawn areas and into the spawning beds isn't that far. So look for the nearest migration routes from the areas you fished this winter to the areas where the fish will be spawning. Along the way, make sure you look for targets in the water that provide protection that's where the fish will be.