How to Catch Prespawn Bass
Author: John E. Phillips
As the water warms this spring, have the "know how" to catch some of your largest bass of the year.
Bass fishing is always exciting, but few things can match the pure quality and fast action of prespawn bassin'. Follow a few tips taken from the pros to the water this year to maximize your success.
"Regardless of where I go and when I fish for prespawn bass, I'm the most concerned about the water temperature," 1980 and 1982 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year and 1983 BASS Masters Classic winner, Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Arkansas, says. "I try to pinpoint areas that have water warm enough for the bass to move into their shallow water. When fishing cold water, I need to start looking in places where prespawn bass hold, like little rocky points, riprap, dock pilings, weed-line edges, etc."
How to Fish Rocky Points
When fishing rocky points, Nixon likes to use a small- to medium-diving crankbait, generally in a crawfish pattern, and sometimes a chartreuse crankbait with a red belly, depending on the color of the water. "I'll search for the bass in 3 to 5 feet of water at that time of the year," Nixon says. "I'll fish a crankbait that will dive down and get into that strike zone of the prespawn bass."
Nixon usually throws his crankbaits on 10- to 12-pound- test line. "I like Trilene XT for this situation. The abrasion-resistant Trilene XT doesn't get roughed-up on rocks nearly as much as other types of monofilament will."
Nixon likes to bring a crankbait down to where he can feel it hitting the rocks and pause for just an instant. "Often you just want to stop the crankbait, and let it sit there. Or, you can suspend the crankbait in that one area where I expect the strikes to occur."
Nixon says most prespawn bass will hit a lure when the bait bounces off something or stops. He'll throw this lure on a 6-foot medium-action fiberglass rod. He prefers a Conolon rod made by Abu Garcia and uses an Abu Garcia T3000 Baitcaster reel.
"I don't want to fish a real stiff rod when the water is cold," Nixon says. "You'll have a tendency to pull the bait away from the bass if you don't use a somewhat limber rod. If you just barely hook bass on the edges of their mouths, you'll pull these fish off if you use a stiff rod."
Nixon likes the spongy feeling of a fiberglass rod because it doesn't take the lure away from the fish when the bass tries to inhale the lure. Much less forgiving than fiberglass, graphite tends to pull the lure away from the bass. Too, sometimes when you fish with graphite, you'll feel the bass too soon, and you'll actually take the lure away from the fish.
How to Fish Riprap During the Prespawn
For prespawn bass, Nixon likes to use a suspended minnow bait -- a jerkbait that you can get down in a certain zone by varying the angle of the lip. "You throw it on light line," Nixon says. "I like to use clear 10-pound-test line. Then I can watch this line very closely because when I get that jerkbait down and parallel to this type of cover, often the bass don't actually hold on the cover. They hold just out away from the cover. They're not on the bottom, which means that if you use a deep diver, it will tend to go under them, especially in clear water."
Nixon says you need a jerkbait that you can get down in that 4-foot, 6-foot or 7-foot zone and then pause to suspend it. Sometimes, in very cool water, you have to let that lure sit there for maybe five or six seconds before the bass can rise to it.
"I like Trilene XT in clear water because I'm very familiar with this line," Nixon explains. "Trilene XT line doesn't pull my lure to the bottom and doesn't help my lure stay up in the water. This line remains right with the lure." Nixon prefers to throw a jerkbait on a medium-action 6-foot fiberglass rod with an Abu Garcia T3000 Baitcaster reel.
How to Fish on Weed Lines
Weed lines usually act as migration routes for fish into many areas, depending on the type of lake you fish. But, if the lake has underwater vegetation and grass lines, the bass will follow these lines just like a structure line, toward more shallow water. When prespawn bass come in on grass lines, usually they hold on the edges, which means they generally stay 4- to 10-feet deep and on the bottom -- right along the outside edges of these weeds.
"When fishing for prespawn bass, I like to use a Carolina rig, a 1/2-ounce sinker, a 3-foot leader and a Berkley Power Noodle," Nixon says. "I'll rig that on a 2/0 hook and use a 7-foot rod. I'll keep my boat in the grass or very close to the edge of the grass and parallel the edge of the grass with my casts. I look for weed points, weed indentions or maybe a rock pile on the edge of the weeds. When I find that select small region, I'll know I've located a place where bass tend to school-up."
When fishing weed lines, Nixon will fish with an Abu Garcia T3000 reel and a very sensitive 7-foot Fenwick Techna AV rod. He'll use 17-pound-test line as his main line with maybe a 10- or 12-pound-test leader, depending on the clarity of the water. Nixon says during the spring, in cold water, a bass may bite subtly and you'll have a hard time feeling that bite.
"I'll fish 17-pound-test Berkley Vanish because it's a sinking monofilament," Nixon says. "This very sensitive line doesn't have a lot of stretch to it. When the water's still cold, you need a very sensitive line. I'll fish with 10-pound-test green leader, Trilene XT, because I believe you'll catch more fish in clear water with green line.
What Happens When a Hard-Cold Front Hits?
When a cold front blows in on a lake from out of nowhere and remains on the lake for three or four days, often prespawn bass won't take jerkbaits or hit crankbaits. These prespawn bass will leave the shoreline and won't take a moving-type bait. But you can still catch fish with a spinning rod with 8-pound-test line and a small Berkley Power Grub in watermelon color that you've put on a 1/4- or a 1/8-ounce head. Search for points and anything just a short way out from the banks. Bass like to hold close to shore in the early prespawn stages and won't go far from the bank. They'll move out on the sides of these little points that have quick depth changes. Perhaps these points will drop from around 10-, 15-, 25- or 30-feet deep.
"I'll hop the grub to begin with, and if the bass don't hit it on the hop, I'll slowly drag it, keeping it in contact with the bottom," Nixon says. "I'll throw 8-pound Berkley Vanish line on an Abu Garcia spinning reel and a 6-foot Fenwick Techna-AV spinning rod."
Take it from the pro's, by following Nixon's suggestions, you are sure to catch more prespawn bass this summer.
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