By Dr. Hal Schramm

Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi is home water for FLW Tour pro Pete Ponds. The spawn is on, and Ponds provides some very specific guidance to Barnett and also some intel that you can apply no matter where you fish for spawning bass.

Plan A: “Head for mile marker #7 on the east side of the lake, then get as shallow as you can behind mile marker #7,” Ponds directed. This is a community hole, you just have to outfish everybody else. The Mississippi pro relies on stealth to get it done. “It’s like squirrel hunting,” said Ponds. “Use a push pole to get shallow, then drop the Power Poles, be still and wait. Watch for signs of fish moving.” When Ponds see movement, he casts a YUM Lizard Texas rigged with a 1/8-ounce sinker well past the fish and then retrieves it high in the water. Good colors in the shallow and relatively clear water are Green Pumpkin, Watermelon, and Watermelon/Red Flake.

Plan B: The larger females stage in the deeper water in front of this area. Ponds recommends fan casting the area with a larger lizard on the bottom and retrieving a Tennessee Shad Bandit 100 around stumps.

Pro’s pointer: Look for green vegetation. “Your temperature gauge will tell you the temperature right now, but the green vegetation will tell you where the water temperature has been warmer for several days, and that’s where the fish are more likely to bed.” 

Sam Rayburn, Texas; spawning largemouth

The spawn is on in this east Texas bass factory, and Texas native and veteran Bassmaster Elite pro Alton Jones provides the intel for catching them. Warm winters and early springs, like the conditions this year, usually mean the spawn starts earlier, but these conditions have also taught the veteran pro that the bass tend to trickle in and the spawn lasts longer. “Even though the water temperature is in the 70s, some bass are still spawning and some are just starting to spawn. Not all bass spawn at the same time,” said Jones.

Plan A: Fishing blind. “On any given day, the fish could be caught on top or on the bottom,” said Jones. The topwater bite will produce bigger fish, and warm days tend to trigger the topwater bite. Jones makes bass look up with a silver Heddon Super Spook Jr. or a BOOYAH Poppin’ Pad Crasher. A Texas rigged 6-inch YUM Dinger is Jones’ weapon for fish on the bottom.

Plan B: The water is clear enough to sight fish on the southern (lower) two thirds of Rayburn. Jones starts with a 6-inch YUM Dinger on a bedding bass; if the Dinger doesn’t excite the fish, he follows with a YUM Vibra King Tube. Jones sticks with natural colors like green pumpkin for both baits. “Bass on the bed are guarding the eggs, and they strike things that threaten the eggs. Put your bait on the nest and quiver it without moving it,” said the voice of experience.

Pro’s pointer: If you spook a big fish from a bed, get a perfect mark on the bed and leave for at least 30 minutes. When you return, cast at least 3 feet past the nest with a Super Spook, pull to nest, then let it sit for “too long”― 10 to 15 seconds. “Twitch it once, the fish will unload.” 

Lake Wylie, North Carolina/South Carolina; spawning largemouth

The largemouth bass spawn is on in this 13,400 acre impoundment that offer anglers 325 miles of shoreline to search. Local tournament pro Scott Peavy helps zero you in on the productive water. Peavy advises anglers to launch at Buster Boyd Landing and head down lake to Crowders Creek.

Plan A: First thing in the morning, fish short pockets off the main creek arm. “You are more likely to find bigger fish in small pockets close to deep water. Fish fast with a BOOYAH Buzz and a spinnerbait,” directed Peavy. “If a fish misses the bait, it is probably on a bed. Pitch a YUM Dinger to the spot. Skip docks with the Dinger as you come to them.“ A white or methiolate floating worm will also draw strikes.

Plan B: “When the sun gets up, put the trolling motor on high and keep casting the spinnerbait, buzzbait, or a YUM Pulse swimbait while searching for beds.” Peavy entices bedding fish with a Green Pumpkin YUM Vibra King Tube tipped with a little chartreuse or a watermelon YUM Christie Craw. If Crowders Creek isn’t producing, move to Beaver Dam Creek and repeat Plan B.

Plan C: If the spawners aren’t cooperating, pitch a BOOYAH Bankroll Jig dressed with a YUM Christie Craw to main lake piers and docks with 4 to 12 feet of water under them. This is the last feeding stop for Wylie bass before spawning. Concentrate your presentations on the outside corners of the docks and shade lines.

Pro’s pointer: Peavy likes to brush (not dip) a little chartreuse on the tail of the Pulse and fish it Texas rigged with a 1/8 or 3/16 ounce weight and a 6/0 Trokar hook skin hooked. With this rigging, the swimbait can be easily fished in grass or brush.

Arkansas River, Muskogee Pool to Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas and Oklahoma; pre-spawn and spawning largemouth

Although a few largemouth have spawned on these upper pools of the Arkansas River, eastern Oklahoma pro Chris Jones expect the big spawning push to happen with the full moon in early April. I spoke with Jones a couple days after he won back-to-back tournaments at Fort Smith Park (Pool 13) and Kerr Lake (Pool 15) on the Arkansas River. “The fishing has been incredible,” said Jones. “I’ve been catching 30 to 40 bass per day, most of them 3 to 4 pounds, and had an 8 pound kicker in one tournament.”

Plan A: “The Arkansas River generally is flowing in the spring and the bass stage for the spawn in the backwaters. This year has been dry, and the fish are staging in the river,” explained Jones. Jones advises anglers to focus on rocks at the mouth of spawning pockets and in cover in the pockets. A chartreuse and white 1/2-ounce BOOYAH Tux and Tails spinnerbait and a bladed jig dressed with a YUM Pulse is making the bass bite. “Move quickly and hit likely targets. You are looking for key areas that hold multiple fish,” advised Jones. “When you find a concentration, catch what’s biting, move on and return later. Keep moving shallower.” There is no plan B.

Pro’s pointer:  “You can’t fish too shallow on the Arkansas River.”