1. What is pre-spawn?
Pre-spawn refers to an annual stage of Bass before the spawn. When the cold winter draws to an end and spring approaches, both male and female Bass begin to exhibit a specific predatory behavior. The purpose of this behavior is to bulk up and gain strength for the rigors of spawning. During this stage, the female is incubating eggs, and needs to fatten up to survive the strain of laying eggs and the long period of sitting on the beds. The male, who will guard the eggs once laid,must also fatten up, because while guarding, he won’t eat for extended periods. Catching Bass during this frenzied stage is a lot of fun, and is one of the most enjoyable times of the year for bass fishing. Another bonus of this stage is that you can catch large females full of eggs. It’s always recommended during this stage to practice catch and release of large egg-laden females, to ensure survivability of the Bass population.
2. Pre-spawn fishing features
When the water temperature rises above 10°C (50 F), Bass are triggered to begin pre-spawning, and certain characteristics can be seen. The Bass move up to roam the middle strata and shallow water of the lake and start eating a lot of bait in preparation for spawning. Two key features are present during this stage:
[Feature 1] Bass prowl in both shallow and deep ranges.
During the winter when water temperatures are low, Bass spend their time in the deeper strata of the lake where the water temperature is stable. Once triggered to the early stage of pre-spawn, Bass begin to actively engage in predatory behavior to gain strength. They aren’t always actively predatory, however, and often rely on ambush feeding, and in this stage they easily change between hunting tactics depending on the time of day and temperature changes.
[Feature 2] Bass eat a lot of bait in preparation for spawning.
Bass that have spent the winter lazily feeding in wintering grounds now need to build up their strength for the upcoming spawn. This is true not only for the females that lay the eggs, but the males who incubate and guard them as well. Bass ravenously feed in this stage, giving it the nickname "spring explosion", because the fishing results improve dramatically.
3. Pre-spawn Bass locations and how to attack
Based on the characteristics of pre-spawn Bass mentioned above, anglers can determine where the bass are likely to be during this stage:
(1) Fish both shallow and deep areas.
As mentioned above, predatory behavior is not always exhibited during this period, and it’s not uncommon for Bass to change their tactics depending on the time of day and temperature changes. When the water temperatures rise and Bass use more predatory behavior, they move to shallower areas. However, sudden water temperature decreases slow down bass behavior and drive them deeper again. For this reason, points and drops where deep and shallow water converge are regarded as the best spots during pre-spawn..
If you are fishing these areas during pre-spawn, lures that can suspend (Jackall's SOULSHAD or Megabass' ONETEN series), or swimbaits that support dead slow retrieve (Megabass' DEAD THROWL, Imakatsu's LAZY SWIMMER, Jackall's DEAD THROWLER) are fine choices. No matter how much the Bass need to build up stamina for spawning, they don't always have much energy. If the bait moves too fast, Bass may not want to chase it. This makes it critical to wind slow or jerk and pause, working the lure at a speed that Bass can catch up with and devour.
Swimbaits that support dead slow retrieve
(2) Hit secondary points
Bass will start moving shallower within range of their spawning grounds. They begin to migrate from places where they hibernated (deep, rocky areas, weeds, etc.) in the winter. However, Bass don’t just rush to the beds. First they move to a staging point between the winter strata and the spawning ground called a secondary point. The important characteristics for secondary points are that they have abundant baitfish and are close to the spawning area. Other important factors are that the water has a little depth, a hard bottom, and that there are obstacles and cover.
Where predatory behavior is actively being carried out at the secondary point while awaiting perfect spawning conditions, lures that target the middle layer such as spinnerbaits, Jackal's TN lipless-crankbait, and Evergreen's WILDHUNCH excel. Rubber jigs with paddle tail swimbait also perform well, and other moving lures are also effective. In a pressured lake, mid-strolling technique with soft-plastic like Fisharrow’s FLASH-J and Jackall’s DRIFT FRY series are recommended.
Lures that target the middle layer
In a pressured lake
Once you figure out where the bass are, know that each Bass has individual preferences, and the timing of spawn can differ for each. In addition, since female bass spawn several times with multiple males, there can be many Pre-spawn Bass even into late spring. Therefore, even though it is spring, it is important to know that the spawning conditions vary from Bass to Bass. Just because you caught an after-spawn Bass doesn't mean that all the bass at that point are done spawning. Keep at it.