The Calm Before the Spawn: How to Be Ready for the Season’s Best Bass Fishing

Most anglers can agree that pre-spawn bass fishing means one thing: summer is around the corner.

While the thought of warmer weather may be enough for many, truly dedicated bass enthusiasts know something else – it’s a once-in-a-season opportunity to snag a trophy.

I want you to be ready for this spring’s action. I’m going take you through pre-spawn bass fishing tips 101.

By keeping a few simple points in mind, you will enter this spring’s thaw and spawn with the tools in your arsenal and the confidence needed to target fish that you’re used to seeing on TV.

Table of Contents

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Pre-what Bass Fishing?

Pre-spawn bass fishing means a state of constant change: not only does the window for it change by geography, but your approach can and should change throughout the day as small changes in temperature trigger completely different feeding patterns from afternoon to morning.

So, when are we pre-spawn bass fishing?

largemouth bass caught with spinning lure

Geography Matters – A Lot!

In North America, the pre-spawn starts earlier in the year and moves north as the calendar rolls forward. It might be the latter part of February through March for the middle of the continent, but closer to later in January further south and as late as April or May going north into Canada.

Some jurisdictions, such as Ontario, Canada, do not open bass for recreational fishing until later in June, so be careful to double check that your plans to target pre-spawn bass do not violate any local regulations.

Water temperature will be a better guide than any calendar – anticipate the pre-spawn action when the temperatures moves upward from 50 degrees Fahrenheit, towards the low 60’s.

Now… what’s happening when bass are getting ready to spawn?

You don’t need an underwater camera to figure it out.

In short, bass are moving from their winter holding locations to other locations where they will spend the spring and summer. This usually involves a transition from where the temperature was stable throughout the winter, to areas with greater temperature fluctuation.

man holds a bass cached with fishing lure

Creatures (or Fish) of Habit

Many bass have common migrating patterns from their winter holding spots to where they like to spend the pre-spawn. Eating is a priority for fish trying to gain size to make up for winter weight loss and prepare for the mating season.

Structure your fishing trip… around structure

Identifying locations that have one, or several, of the features that attract bass prey will up your chances of a pre-spawn monster. This can include structure, shelter such as docks, or even early emerging weed beds and shoreline growth into and over the water.

Small Changes, Big Differences

Because the bass are responding to changes in the environment that trigger their spawn, slight differences in water or even air temperature, wind intensity, light and baitfish patterns can greatly affect the bass fishing one day – or even one hour – to the next. Keeping an open mind and a tackle box with many different options is key to being prepared for success.

Alright – now you want the good stuff, right?

Every angler is wondering – once you have selected the right rod and reel combo for bass, what should you be tying onto your line in hopes of landing a pre-spawn gem?

bass fishing lures and artificial baits

Plastics are Flexible

Soft plastics are a great place to start. A jig head with a plastic gives you the diversity you need to find out if there’s a color code to the bass’ appetite that day – a few different colors of jig and plastic can allow you to quickly and with minimal hassle try multiple color combinations.

Your mileage will vary for your local fishing hole, but if I am heading out in the early spring I want a tackle box full of whites, yellows and oranges.

My home lake generally has darker water, which is why I like the contrast of lighter colors. Feel free to bust out darker colors and leave a comment letting us know how you do.

Jerks and Cranks – the Good Kind

Nobody likes a cranky jerk, right?

Not in person… But jerk baits and crank baits are bass fishing classics that have the potential to yield well in the spring. Not only do they bring the advantage of giving you lots of options for color and the ability to quickly change things up, they also have a lot of natural action.

If you are working a jig or soft plastic, you probably know that a lot of the action and movement comes from your hands and arms working the bait’s retrieval – something that can tire you out, especially in cooler early-season conditions.

Jerk baits and crank baits hop through the water with enough action to let every bass in the neighborhood know they’re around and available for tasting.

If All Else Fails, Pull Out a Blade

No, I’m not suggesting taking a knife to a fish fight.

Blade baits and spinner baits have a lot going on for them, namely that bass love to feast on them most of the year and spring is usually no different.

They have the ability to make their presence known with their visuals and their movement, and if one does not produce results quickly it is easy to switch it up.

Kermit is Your Friend

Top-water lures like plastic frogs are another interesting option. Any angler that has seen a bass smash a frog off the surface knows the thrill, and in early spring with fewer surface weeds to get in the way top-water baits can perform well.

Another reason I like them is that they give you access to a completely different part of the water column (the very top) than many of the baits mentioned earlier, an important strategy on days when you’re not sure at what depth to find the big bass.

striped bass being pulled from the water caught on a fishing hook

Pre-spawn Happens Once a Year… so be Ready!

If you take nothing else from this introduction to pre-spawn bass fishing, remember two things: variety and effort go a long way, and the effort can pay off big.

For many, the thrill of being back on the water after the winter is exhilarating enough on its own. For students of the sport and true bass enthusiasts who are patient and determined, spring can yield bass that will be difficult to match in the dog days of summer.

So as the northern hemisphere starts to warm in the next few weeks and months, keep your lines tight and your tackle box ready!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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