Bass fishing starting to heat up


Bass fishing has really turned on in Ohio as many are starting to spawn. With the cool and wet April weather, I thought the spawn would be delayed a little but when May arrived, the temperatures heated up and the bass spawn was back on schedule.

Spawning is the term we use to describe the reproduction of fish. Bass typically spawn when the water temperature reaches the upper sixties but other factors can affect when it occurs. Moon phases, rising or falling water temperatures, or a dropping barometer can all trigger the male bass to begin fanning a bowl shaped area that we call a bed and attempt to woo a female partner.

Here in central Ohio, this yearly event usually happens some time between early May and early June, depending on the spring weather. These beds can be found as shallow as one foot of water or as deep as six feet. Most bass prefer a hard bottom surface to make their beds because it is easier to keep clean but I have found bass spawning on odd things like submerged tree stumps.

Spawning is started by the smaller male when he builds a bed into a shallow bank by fanning the bed out with his tail. Many times, his tail can become bloodied from hitting it against rocks. This is one clue that you can use to identify when the bass are spawning in a body of water. If you start to catch bass with blood or sores on their tails, the spawn is on. Once he has the bed completed, he then tries to attract a female to join him at his newly made bed. These females are bulging with eggs and have moved to shallower water in search of a mate.

Once the female has partnered up and approved of his bed, she will deposit her eggs. This event can last anywhere between six hours to three days. Once she has deposited her eggs, she will retreat to deeper water to go through a resting period and then begin to feed to replenish her energy. It is the male that stays with the eggs after he fertilizes them and guards the bed for invaders. He will also protect them until they hatch and will stay with the fry for several weeks after that.

It is during this spawning ritual that both the male and female are no longer driven by hunger but can be driven by being territorial. The trick of getting one to bite is to make the male or female think that your lure is a predator looking for an easy meal of fish eggs. This can be quite difficult but the challenge can be rewarding and once you learn the ins and outs of catching spawners, it can become quite easy.

First thing that you need to do is to find bedded bass. This can be done easier if you wear a good pair of polarized sunglasses. If you have never fished with a pair of polarized glasses, give them a try. You will be amazed at the things that you can see underwater. Cruise shallow hard bottom banks with your trolling motor until you see either a bass or their bowl shaped nest. Once one is located, slow down and approach the nest with extreme caution. The bass are very spooky during this time period and you can chase them away if you approach too soon or make too much noise. Stay as far away as possible but maintain casting distance.

If you do spook the bass away from the bed, just wait a while and the fish will soon return. Cast your lure past the nest and ease it into the bed and leave it there giving it just a slight twitch or two to entice the bass. Once the fish picks up the lure, quickly set the hook. More times than not, the fish barely has the lure in its mouth and will spit the lure out as soon as it has moved it away from the nest.

The entire key here is patience. Many times you will never fool them into biting. It is just the nature of catching spawning fish. Some will be very aggressive and attack quickly and others will never bite and you might as well give up after a while. But, don’t be afraid to come back and try again later in the day, as their temperaments seem to change quickly.

In order to increase your chance at catching bedded bass, I highly recommend that you downsize your line and lure presentation. The fish are very finicky and will often be more wary of larger lines and larger baits. Popular lures for this time period are tubes, lizards, worms and other small plastics that will be tantalizing to the bass. I prefer a small plastic known as a ned rig. Remember, they are very spooky and the odds are if they see you, your chance of triggering them to bite is slim. Try to maintain a low profile especially in clear water and avoid wearing a shirt that sticks out like very bright or very dark colors.

Once the eggs have hatched and the male bass are protecting the fry, you can go back to the larger lures like worms and jigs. Look for schools of fry and cast your bait into the batch and let your lure fall straight down. Often the bass are right underneath them and will attack aggressively.

Catching spawning bass can be quite fun, but a word should be mentioned that harvesting these fish could affect the future health of the fisheries. If too many spawners are removed in a season then the future population of bass in that waterway can be affected. I highly recommend that all females full of eggs and males protecting beds should be returned to the water immediately so the success of the species can continue.

Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!

Ken Parrott is a retired Northmor High School Agricultural Science teacher.

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