Small Waters Strategies – Spawn transition

Small Waters Strategies – Spawn transition

May 15, 2013

Read the Signs of Spawning Period Transitions

By Mike Pehanich

May is a time of transition in my Midwest region and throughout much of the country. If you’re not reading the signs of change, good luck! For good luck may be the best or only card in your hand!

The key transitions in May (read “April” or “June” if you live much further south or north respectively) are between the three phases of the spawn — pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn and from post-spawn into their early summer patterns.

Weather is always a factor in fish activity and anglers’ success, but it becomes even more significant this period on the fish-stage calendar. The aggregate pre-spawn/spawn/post-spawn period can be a long drawn-out time in which different portions of the bass population (or portion of most species) are in different phases at the same time. In fact, on

The signs of transition from pre-spawn to spawn to post-spawn are in the water, the fish's appearance and even in the way they strike.

most waters, that is, indeed, the case. But in some areas, and during sustained periods of warm weather, the phases can compress rather quickly.

On small waters, however, you will generally find far more members of a species’ population in lock-step – that is, going through the same stage of the spawn at the same time.

Understanding the stage the predominant portion of the bass population is in can help you key on not only the right areas to fish but on what high-percentage baits and presentations to employ as well.

Here are a few signs to help you read the phase.

Moon phase – Spawning activity is heightened around the period of the full moon. Check the lunar phase before you hit the water. If you are several days either side of the full moon and the water temperature is favorable to spawning (think 60s in general), expect bed sweeping, hunting for mates, and the light and tentative bites so characteristic of bass during this stage.

Bed sighting – Spotting several beds in the area and bass on or around them is about as sure a sign of spawning activity as you can get. But even the sight of a bed begs the question of whether bass are actually spawning or entering or exiting the spawn itself.

It's not difficult to get a bass to strike during the spawning period, but hooking them is another story.

Bass behavior – Are bass cruising a broad area? If so, they might still be in the pre-spawn stage, which may make them vulnerable to aggressive presentations. Are the bass skittish but circling back repeatedly to the same area? A bed is nearby. Is a female “locked on” a bed? Try patient presentations with tubes, stickworms, dropshot craws, creatures, and various imitations of nest-raiders around the “hot spot” on that bed – the place where she cannot tolerate any intruder.

Fish appearance: Are the bass fat with roe but still aggressive? Likely those are pre-spawn fish. Are they very thin, moderately aggressive but hard to pattern? Post-spawn. Is she spilling eggs? Sure sign they are spawning! Do you see a bass cruising the shallows with clouds of fry in the area? Post-spawn male playing guardian.

Fish bites: The hits keep coming! Prompting strikes around the spawning period is not always difficult, but hooking fish frequently is! Bass may display little or no interest in feeding, but they will nudge, attack, and blow on a bait – or simply pick it up and carry it away from the bed. Line watching is essential. Your bait will often move laterally or toward you with no discernible “tap” to indicate a hit. Downsize your stickworms, if that is your bed bait of choice. Drop from a five-inch to a four- or three-inch. Or perhaps tear one in half.

Yes, I landed this toad, but, tell me, how did six fish this day slide a standard size five-inch stickworm out of the O-ring -- and leave the O-ring on the hook?

Last season, I had a wild day at a small lake where love in all its weirdness oozed from the water. In several short hours, I landed 28 bass up to nearly five pounds, but, honestly, I must have had 150 hits.  Yes, I’m sure some hits came from bluegill, but I’m certain that most were from bass.

I used an O-ring on my wacky-rigged stickworms to keep from losing a worm on every cast.

Now usually I can rely on this adaptation to produce at least five to eight bass per worm. Not so this day.

These weird and crafty bass were sliding the worms out of the O-rings…and – no kidding — leaving the O-rings on the hook!

Crafty, indeed!

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