By Dr. Hal Schramm

Long Lake, Ohio; pre-spawn and spawning largemouth

Long Lake is one of the lakes in the Portage Lakes chain south of Akron. Intel for Long Lake is courtesy of local pro Jameson Lecon. The spawn has started, but some pre-spawn fish will still be staging in the weed flats. Lecon offers tips for both pre-spawn and spawning bass.

Plan A: Early in the day Lecon starts with a Flashy Momma or Blue Shiner BOOYAH Hard Knocker around and over weed beds growing in about 4-feet deep water. A 3/8 ounce BOOYAH spinnerbait fished slow over the top of the weeds is always a good choice.

Plan B: The water is clear enough for sight fishing. When the sun gets up, it’s time to look for beds. “Look first in protected waters like canals and small main-lake pockets. The Long Lake bass like to bed along seawalls and next to dock posts. Laydown logs and overhanging bushes are also prime real estate for nests,” offered the Ohio pro. Lecon’s go-to bed-fishing baits are a YUM Christie Critter or Christie Craw Texas rigged with a 1-4-ounce sinker confided Lecon. “I like to use white if possible, but experiment with colors. Try something dark, or with a little flash, or a bluegill color with a little flake.” 

Pro’s pointer: In a tournament, try to get a limit on the pre-spawn bite; then you have more time to work on a big spawner. Rotate baits when bed fishing. “Every fish is different, and it often pays off to rotate through baits and colors.” 

Wheeler Lake, Alabama; spawning largemouth

“The bass should be in the heart of the spawn,” reported veteran pro Alton Jones. “The rising water and rapidly warming temperature should be a double trigger for the spawn.” The Tennessee River has become ‘the place to go’ in the last couple years, and rightfully so--the fishing has been good. But good fishing attracts crowds, and good doesn’t last long. Wheeler is downstream of Guntersville, and one lake up from Pickwick, and doesn’t draw the crowds and tournaments as these other headline lakes. “There are dozens of ways to catch spawners,” confided the Bassmaster Classic champion. I’ve worked with Mr. Jones many times, and he’s all about catching big bass. Here’s his take on Wheeler.

Plan A: Just like reservoirs in Jones’ native Texas, the bass will spawn in the buckbrush. Look in the backs of Decatur Flats, Swan Creek, and Mud Creek. Pitch a YUM Bad Mamma on a 3/0 hook under a 1/4-ounce weight to the center of the bush. “Any concave piece of shoreline is a likely spot to find a spawner,” said Jones. “The fish aren’t everywhere. You may not get a bite for a half mile and then hit a bunch of bass in a 100-yard stretch. Keep moving until you find fish,” advised Jones.

Plan B: If you get a really warm day, fish a BOOYAH Pad Crasher frog around the same bushes as in Plan A. This is Jones’ plan for a giant bass, and his instructions were specific. “Big fish are easily spooked. Get as far away from the bushes as you can. Spool up with 50-pound braid and side arm or skip the Pad Crasher to the base of the bush.”

Pro’s pointer: “Bass love to spawn at the base of buckbrush. You need to get the Bad Mamma to center of the bush. The main stem is directly below tallest limbs.” 

Lake Norman, North Carolina; spawn and post-spawn largemouth and spotted bass

 “Lake Norman is the best lake in the eastern U.S. for anybody that wants to catch a bass. There is no down season, and there is a shallow bite year round,” replied east coast tournament angler Dylan Fulf when I asked him to describe bass fishing in this 38,000 acre lake north of Charlotte as North Carolina. “And, during the spawning season, the 8 to 10 foot visibility makes it a great place to practice bed fishing.”

Plan A: “If you want to win a tournament right now, concentrate on mid-lake spawners,” counseled the young pro. Fulf casts a Bluegill YUM Money Minnow on a 6/0 belly weight hook to docks and the water between docks in small main-lake pockets as he cruises the shore looking for beds. “Always watch the swimbait for followers. Fish will rarely strike the Money Minnow at this time of year, but they will reveal themselves,” explained Fulf. “When you find a fish, stay a long cast away, drop the poles, and cast a 4 inch, green pumpkin YUM Dinger.” If Fulf can’t draw a bite on the Dinger, he moves close enough to be able to see the fish and irritates it with a Summer Gill or natural color YUM Vibra King Tube. “I really like the Vibra King Tube; its erratic action mimics a bluegill flitting around a bed,” said Fulf. Fulf catches both spawning largemouth and spotted bass. The largemouth usually spawn 1 to 3 feet deep, the spots in 3 to 8 feet of water.

Plan B: Fulf describes this as the “more fun, catch a lot fish pattern.” Most of these fish will be 2-pound bass. Head down lake where the water is warmer from the power plant cooling discharge and the spawn has already come and gone. You are fishing for bass guarding fry schools. “The water is clearer on the south side, and you can usually see the fry around the floats of docks,” said the young gun. Any bait that mimics a fish will see action. Fulf is especially keen on the YUM Swurm. “Just twitch it through the fry swarm and be ready. I like white if I can see the fry, but I’ll twitch a green pumpkin Swurm around the dock floats if I can’t see fry,” shared Fulf.

Pro’s pointer: A good pair of sunglasses will help you see bedding fish and fry schools. 

Ross Barnett Reservoir, Mississippi; post-spawn largemouth

“The spawn is mostly over,” reports FLW Tour pro Pete Ponds from nearby Madison. “The bass will move out of the coves and bunch up on drops in 4 to 7 feet, on old road beds, and on points in the main lake close to spawning areas.” A Bandit 200 (Parrot Orange or Chartreuse/Blue Back) or a Carolina-rigged YUM Lizard (Watermelon or Green Pumpkin) will catch fish. But the veteran pro offers some more specific advice to get away from the crowd.

Plan A: Head up river from Highway 43 and look for cuts and creeks coming out of old river channels and oxbow lakes; the bass will gang up where these channels connect with the Pearl River. Focus on pad points early in the morning, then move to the junctions where cuts or connections join the river as the sun get higher. Ponds relies on a Parrot Orange Bandit 200 to make the bass bite.

Plan B: The shad spawn. When the water gets to 72 and stays that temperature overnight, the shad do their thing. “This is a daylight and dark deal,” said Ponds. “Look around hard surfaces such as rip rap, stumps, and occasionally the edge of alligator weed for shad working; it will look like rain on the water surface.” Ponds dupes the shad-bingeing bass with a YUM Break'N Shad (Pearl White, Blue Pearl, or shad colors), a clear Heddon Tiny Torpedo, and a BOOYAH Double Willow Blade. “The ‘zip’ from a twitched Tiny Torpedo mimics the sound of the shad,” added Ponds.

Pro’s pointer: “It’s easy to go ‘mindless’ fishing a crankbait,” said the crankbait specialist. Ponds always relies on some time of erratic retrieve. “At this time of year, I usually move the crankbait by sweeping the rod, then reeling up slack. But always mix it up to see what works.” 

Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee; post-spawn largemouth

“The spawn is progressing fast on this 59-mile long Tennessee River reservoir,” reported accomplished Bassmaster Elite pro Stetson Blaylock. “The bass on Chickamauga are highly pressured, and I think they move out of the spawning areas quickly after spawning. They stop on flats and at the mouth of major creeks to recuperate before heading to the river.”

Plan A: Feeding is the deal, and shad--whether spawning or not--are the primary forage. Look for flats 3- to 10-feet deep at the mouths of major creeks. Flats flanking a channel swing are ideal, but any flat at the mouth of a creek can be productive. “Bait fish are the key, so use your eyes and electronics to find concentrations of bait,” said Blaylock. The bass are mostly suspended and willing to chase moving baits. Deep crankbaits, like a Bomber Fat Free Shad, are effective, as are swimbaits like a YUM Money Minnow. A Heddon Super Spook will also entice bites. Although most bass may be chasing bait in the water column, always mix in casts with a large bottom bait like a 10 inch YUM Ribbontail worm.

Pro’s pointer: Find the bait!