The pre-spawn chaos can be overwhelming, the search for big bass and that lifetime trophy are in full swing, and fishing pressure will just get heavier as each day passes and the water temperatures warm. The pre-spawn patterns make some fishing days great, while rapid changes in weather due to frontal systems and high pressure can leave anglers wondering where all of these aggressive fish went in such a short amount of time. Here are my four tips of targeting pre-spawn patterns and catching your fish of a lifetime.
Tip #1- The Wacky Rig
The wacky rig was for a long time in my life something I knew about, but I had never really had too much luck with it. This all changed about two years ago on a hot summer day, when I hooked up a wacky rigged Yum Dinger and began skipping and flipping it under docks and overhangs with incredible results. Since then, I have become what some of my friends call Mr. Wacky, I really focus on this presentation because there’s not a lot of people who consistently work and target fish with it at various depths. What I mean by this is everybody throws a weightless wacky in the summer, but I throw them on weighted jig heads in Pre-Spawn, various weighted hooks in summer, and once again in fall and winter. Whether I am targeting fish in the shallows, or fish in 15-20 feet of water, the suspending presentation of this lure is hard to beat.
Tip #2- Always have a one – two punch combination
My one two punch consists of a Zoom Super Fluke, and a Yum Dinger, both in watermelon red. I will work one bait presentation for a set amount of time, and then double back over the same area with the follow up bait. Which one goes first and which one goes second is never a set thing, but what is certain is the follow up bait produces bigger and more fish over the same worked area every single time. To the point that on Kentucky lake I have worked behind 3-4 bass boats on the same shoreline and consistently pulled off 2 – 3lb bass right behind where 3 other boats just worked. Having a one – two punch combination is crucial to consistently producing good bag limits in limited amount of time during tournaments.
Tip #3- Understand where the fish are holding-
We all see big bass cruising the flats this time of year and want to target those big flat areas in hopes of enticing a monster. But when you really look at productive approaches, and where the majority of fish stage this time of year, you will realize that targeting the flats is highly ineffective unless you are specifically targeting beds. I have noticed that I consistently produce bigger bag limits when I switch from the flat areas, to directly targeting the drop offs and sloping banks adjacent to these flats. The word drop off doesn’t always mean a large drop in depth to me, I consider a 2 foot flat that drops down to a 5 foot area a drop off, and that is what I really focus on this time of year. I look for a 1-2 foot water depth up against the bank that has 5-10 foot water within 10-20 feet of the bank. This terrace-like feature is a money maker during Pre-Spawn through Post-Spawn patterns when worked with plastics and top waters as the water warms up. Just remember the fish are very active during this phase and while they will be cruising and searching for an area to spawn they are also creatures of habit and will remain in the same general depth/feature patterns throughout this spring.
Tip number 4- Be persistent and methodical
The bass moving up to spawn follow very specific and predictable patterns, frontal systems and rapid weather changes will alter the fish’s behaviors and predatory behaviors in terms of aggressiveness and what they will strike at and why. But unless that water temperature rapidly drops more than 5 degrees and stays that way for over 7 days, the bass will not retreat back to the primary points and deeper water unless they absolutely have to. Fish are efficiency minded creatures and will not expend energy or perform big changes in location if they don’t have to. If you are catching fish in a cove ,or on a primary point before a weather change, target that same area after the weather change but change up your presentation and move just a tad bit deeper. If the fish were holding in 2-4 feet of water move to 6-10 foot marks and target that area of the drop off or cove. Changing up from crank baits and bladed baits such as spinner baits or chatter baits, to a more subtle approach like a Carolina-rigged worm, or finesse bait like a fluke or stick worm can be absolutely game changing in terms of fish production. This might sound “corny”, but always think, if I were a fish how far would I go to use the least amount of energy and still be better situated for the changing weather.
At the end of the day different water bodies produce different patterns and bait presentations during this time of year, but understanding how the fish think and how you can make change-ups to better approach these fish can have huge pay offs during the springtime. Stay safe, always wear a PFD, and don’t forget to fill out a US Coast Guard float plan to leave with a friend or family member in case you are late, so authorities know where to start searching for you. This single sheet of paper could save your life.