Finally. It’s the end of the suck. Winter is dying. The water temperatures are coming back up, and the bass… well, the bass are moving shallow again to spawn.
This move won’t happen overnight. It takes time. It’s incremental. Therefore, it requires you the angler to explore and experiment to find the most effective depth to fish at.
It’s calm on the water.
But rest assured – the bass are moving beneath the surface.
We’ve discussed how fish move shallow when the water rises (see Fluctuating Water Levels: Learning to Fish Rivers & Streams), and how they move out when the water falls. When the water is high, it’s not uncommon to see professional anglers working the first available cover that lies between shallow and deep water.
If you are in open water, turn towards a jerkbait or a lipless crankbait. Spinnerbaits are a great option in heavier cover, and don’t be afraid to try swim jigs. (If you have never tried this technique, check out this helpful guide: Learn How to Fish a Swim Jig or if you’re ready for some new gear, take a peek at our Top 10 Swim Jig Picks.)
All 4 of these presentations will help you cover a fair amount of water. This is a great way to find fish – but once you’ve found them, take some time to slow down and work the area over by pitching jigs and soft plastics into cover. Slower techniques can be fished more deliberately and help you dissect an area.
If the water is falling, bass are usually triggered into moving out from shore. They will leave shallow cover and spawning flats to head for the first drop outside of the spawning area, where the water is deeper. They may relate to a breakline (meaning a distinct drop or edge) or a creek channel, and they can set up at multiple depths within the water column.
This means that bottom-hugging presentations may work – but if the fish are suspended, something like a jerkbait can really shine.
A good way to search for fish during low water would be to start with the ends of laydowns and docks, steep banks, or any cover that protrudes out from shore into deeper water. Work the ends of these structures, searching for fish and work your way out fishing from top to bottom.
On most bodies of water the temperature will fluctuate daily. High sun and bright skies can warm the water during the day, but cold nights can drop temps back down. Still, throughout the prespawn period there is definitely an upward trend in water warmth.
A good rule of thumb: don’t worry too much if the temperature swings 4°F or less from day to day. Usually – usually – temperature changes of this amount won’t have a major impact on the fish or their location. They’ll stay put. That said, if the fish are in very shallow water, they might move out.
If the cooling water has had an effect on the fish – start with the same presentations that were working the day before, move out to the next available cover or structure. Adjust your cadence. Slow down.
Bass like to spawn in clear water.
Clear water means better visibility – for both you, and the fish.
Stealth mode: activate.
Start by fishing your confidence baits in natural colors. Shad colors, green pumpkins, finesse presentations and maybe even faster lure speeds. Faster lure speeds can trigger reaction strikes. The fish won’t get a great look at the bait, and they may attack out of pure instinct.
Shade can come into play, so make sure to explore shady areas throughout the day.
Depending on the conditions, clear water can turn muddy overnight. If the water muddies up and visibility drops, fish will hold tighter to cover and tend to stay in the area. You’ll need to fish up close to (or in) cover.
This is a good time to look to baits that will silhouette well like a black & blue jig, or something that stands out like an orange or chartreuse spinnerbait. Baits with more thump or appendages can come into play, as well as baits with more scent.
Fish brighter. Fish tighter.
When visibility drops – think about all of the senses of the bass and make it easier for them to find your offering. More contrast. More flash. More vibration. More scent.
Experiment with those adjustments in mind.
Here in the Midwest, little changes in the weather around this time of year are extremely exciting. The days get longer. The air gets warmer. The bitter chill of winter starts to fade, giving way to small green buds on the trees and the reassuring sounds of songbirds.
Woodpeckers peck, peepers peep, and bulbs bloom.
The fish are on the move. It’s time for us to exit hibernation, venture forth from our winter haunts, and go visit our little green friends…
… even though they probably don’t miss us as much as we miss them.