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2 Spring pre-spawn bass fishing (2 of 18)

Learn how to catch bass in early spring, even when water temperatures are cold.

Video Transcript:

Welcome to "The Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing." You know bass are fun no matter where you catch them and no matter how big they are. And, they can be found almost all around North America. We're going to explore the seasons of bass because bass fishing is different depending on the time of year and the time of day, and what the bass are doing.
First, let's look at spring. Bass spawn in spring. When water temperatures get to be about 58 degrees, bass move into the shallows to stage prior to spawning.
Then, they typically spawn between 60 and 70 degrees. Bass behave differently before and after the spawn. Both are great opportunities but you have to check your regulations because in some states and provinces, there's a closed season to protect spawning bass. Some areas allow you to fish for bass during spawning season on a catch-and-release basis.
Pre-spawn usually happens between 48 and 55 degrees. As lake or river waters warm up, both, smallmouth and largemouth bass begin to move from their deep haunts to search for food, in preparation for spawning. In this animation, you could see how bass travel from deep water to shallow water areas to hunt for prey.
The type of structure they'll go to will vary, depending on the water types and prey availability. They're usually quite aggressive depending on water temperature and will spread out in small hunting packs, constantly moving and searching for prey. This correspondence with the emergence of crayfish from hibernation, which is why crayfish patterns are so effective in spring.
Baitfish are also moving into the shallows in search of warmer water. Bass are trying to get nourishment in preparation for spawning so they feed eagerly. On sunny days, when the shallow water warms quickly, bass will be found in the shallows, hunting for crayfish and baitfish. Look for them in areas of down timber, rocky shorelines and around rocky islands.
Now, I've never done any smallmouth fishing this early on purpose, anyway. But we're here to try to see if we can catch some of these pre-spawn smallmouths. Here we are in Maine, in May, before spawning season. We look for smallmouth on the shadows on the his river and we found this nice one.
There's one way back in the shallow water but low and slow is sure the secret, here, with these early season smallmouths. By using plenty of pauses in our strips, we allow the fly to sail on the bottom. And then, dart upward, which keeps the fly moving slower and keeps it closer to the bottom, where bass are found at this time of year.
Thank you, buddy. Let's see if there's another one back in there. Oh, there's another one. These fish are just in the current but right in the slower part of the current. When the water gets between 55 and 70 degrees, bass are staging for spawning, building nests, and actually spawning.
It's important to note that not all bass spawn at once. At any given time, when the water is in the 60s, some bass may be getting ready to spawn. Others will be spawning and some will already have finished spawning. So in the early season, there aren't many insects around so the fish are going to be eating mostly baitfish and crayfish. The baitfish is starting to get active.
The crayfish is starting to get active. So you want to have flies that kind of match baitfish and crayfish so I've got some baitfish imitations of various sizes and colors here. And then, I've got some different crayfish imitations and a big nymph. There may be a few mayflies hatching pretty soon so we're going to try a big nymph.
So it's early season and we just caught a bass and it spit up a bunch of little baitfish. Now, I'm not that bright but I don't have to be hit over the head to tell me that it's probably a good idea to put on a baitfish imitation. So I've got this game-changer, which is quite a bit bigger than that bait but I know they're eating baitfish.
They're probably not going to be selective. So I'm going to fish this baitfish imitation and see if we can interest the bass. If you want to avoid fishing for actively spawning fish, don't fish directly over their nest. Some people don't think it's ethical. The nests are easy to spot. Your best bet is to look for cruising fish, which are usually pre-spawn or post-spawn fish.
If you want to target post-spawn fish, which are usually females and a little bit bigger, they'll be found in deeper water, six to 10 feet deep beyond the beds. Males guard the nest so they may still be on the nest when the females are deeper. The males will stay on the nest up to four weeks, guarding the young from predators. On a crayfish.
We've been fishing baitfish patterns and poppers all day and really haven't tried a crayfish, so you could tell when they think their crayfish because they always take them deep, because they want to crush them. They want to get them right into their throat. All right, buddy. Water's warming up, you can tell.
They're frisky today. This fly I'm using is a double-header is a fly type for salt water fishing for striped bass. It's a crab imitation. It's got some claws and some rabbit fur and that's about it.