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Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 12, 2012
For many folks we are now enjoying the high water mark of the bass fishing season. The bass in our lakes and reservoirs are holding in relatively shallow water and are in either a prespawn or spawn mode.
This means that you can beat the banks with plastic, jigs and other baits and have plenty of opportunities to catch fish. Prespawn bass are aggressive feeders and while bed fish don’t feed they will often strike anything that comes near or into their nest sites out of aggression.
As good as things are right now, the post spawn period is looming right around the corner and for many folks this represents one of the truly tough times of the year to hook bass. Bass coming off the spawn want to feed and revitalize themselves, so we’ve got to ask ourselves why these post spawn bass give so many anglers so much trouble?
I think the answer is fairly simple, yet not all that obvious. For 6 or 8 weeks or longer during the prespawn and spawn periods anglers are rewarded by working the shoreline where the fish are about to spawn and spawning. Once the spawn is over and the bass move on, anglers lag behind and continue working as if the spawn was going full bore and they begin to see diminishing returns.
As most of us know, you never want to leave fish to find fish and likewise most of us hate to discard an approach that HAD been working. Complicating this matter is the fact that not all the bass in a given lake spawn at exactly the same time. A light doesn’t go on and the spawn is over and the post spawn period kicks in. Instead the transition takes time and the post spawn doldrums creep up on anglers that days and weeks prior had been enjoying great fishing in areas where they are now struggling to get hit.
To tap into the post spawn feeding period it is crucial to understand what the bass do after they leave the spawning beds and what they want in terms of lures.
The primary forage in most of our lakes is crawfish and threadfin shad. Shad are an open water fish that like to move toward the surface where plankton production is heightened to feed and drop down in the water column where the water temperature is most comfortable when they aren’t feeding.
Crawfish are most active after dark, but during the day they can still be found out and about provided they are not illuminated by direct sunlight. For some crawfish this means conducting business in deeper water, while others lurk in the shade provided by structure.
If the bass had their way, they would encounter big pods of shad when they came off the spawn. The bass would form schools, move offshore and assault the bait…Open water bass that are moving. One minute they are here the next they are long gone. This isn’t an easy proposition to solve for the would be basser.
In situations where there isn’t enough bait to cause bass to school or even if there is, some bass prefer to be alone. When these fish come off the spawn, they spread out and post up in key ambush locations, where they can lay in wait for either stray baitfish or crawfish.
Whether bass are hunting in a group or acting as lone ambush predators, they all have one thing in common during the post spawn period, a greatly expanded strike zone. Post spawn fish want to feed and they are willing to chase the right type and size of bait.
In general, by the time the post spawn rolls around most baitfish are still relatively small and smallish crawfish are always more attractive than the really big ones. The willingness of the bass to chase combined with their expectation of finding relatively small forage gives you solid clues as to bait selection.
Small spinnerbaits or medium size inline spinners are great choices as are both soft and hard rip baits, such as Flukes or thin profile Ima Flits. These baits do a great job of imitation baitfish and they can be fished quickly, allowing you to cover water until you find bass. Another baitfish imitation that shouldn’t be overlooked is a smoke/flake grub rigged on a quarter ounce darter head. These baits can be slow rolled like a small swimbait with great success.
If you think crawfish are on the menu, smallish jigs, tubes and Carolina rigged worms are solid picks. All these baits can be working along the bottom quickly, once again covering a lot of water efficiently as you seek out bass.
The place to start looking for bass is offshore of the areas where you know the bass spawned. That goes for both schooling fish and fish positioned on isolated ambush points. Submerged creek beds that cut through spawning flats and then drop into deeper water are classic areas for finding fishing setting on structure hoping to ambush.
In late spring and early summer the sky is often cloud free and the water is typically pretty clear. When you seek out lone fish looking to ambush lunch remember that the bass will be holding on structure that affords them the ability to lurk in the shade. Work the shady side of creek channels, stumps, standing trees and boulders and it won’t be long before you begin putting post spawn bass into the boat.
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