By, Ryan Dentscheff
The weather is warming up, which means one thing in the bass fishing world: the spawn is on. Here in Ohio, and other northern states where the weather takes until laster in the spring to improve, the spawn does the same. In Florida, for example, bass we spawning weeks ago.
Firstly, to give a brief overview of the bass spawning season for you those who are unfamiliar, the bass spawning season is when largemouth and smallmouth bass move up to shallow water, make their “beds,” and lay their eggs. This usually begins when water temperature reach about 60-65 degrees.
The thing that makes “bed fishing,” as it is commonly referred to, so exciting is the angler’s ability to see the fish they are trying to catch. The bass will lay eggs in about eight feet of water or less. The reason they lay them so shallow is because the eggs use the heat from the sunlight for incubation.
Now, there are some key tips and tricks of the trade that will help you capitalize on the spawning season, and have you catching more bass. The first thing you want to know is location of the fish. Finding fish on beds is as easy as slowly perusing the bank of a lake, pond, or shallow river. If the water is clear, and the sun is shining, finding the fish is relatively easy. Look for discoloration on the bottom of the body of water you are fishing, because the bass will clear out a circular area on the floor of the lake. The bed will most likely be much darker or lighter, depending on what the sediment is made of (clay, sand, dirt, etc.) Here are a few pictures that show bass beds in the water:
After you have found the bed, and located the fish, it is time to “read” the fish. Reading a fish is crucial because it is what will determine if you want to spend the time needed to catch a bedded bass. A bass that is “locked” onto a bed, which means it is committed to protecting its eggs, that fish is catchable. If a fish is “cruising,” don’t waste your time.
To determine is the bass is locked or cruising, through a lure into the bed area and see how the fish reacts. If it ignores your lure and swims away, not returning within a minute or less, that fish is more than likely not worth the time. However, if the fish takes notice and becomes aggressive towards your lure, it is likely that you will be able to catch the fish.
Bedding bass are not going to eat your lure because they are hungry and thinking it is food, which is usually how you catch fish that are not on beds. Instead, the fish will eat your lure out of frustration and protectiveness. Fish that are locked onto a bed are there to protect its eggs. When it sees something enter the bed area, and it sees it as a threat, it will react in a number of ways.
The first way a fish will often react in this situation, is attempting to scare the intruder off. In our case, the “intruder” is our lure. When a bedded fish shows this sign of aggression, it is a great sign for the angler. The fish will often flare its gills, open its mouth, and swim aggressively towards the lure. Getting the fish’s attention, and making it believe that the lure is a threat is key to catching bedded fish. To do this, throw repeat casts past the bed and slowly retrieve it into the bed area. Make sure, however, that you are far enough away from the bed that the fish cannot see you and detect your movements. “One of the biggest keys to getting a bass to bit quickly is to make the cast before he knows you’re there,” said Shaw Grigsby in an article published in Bassmaster Magazine. “Eagles and ospreys are their predators, so any overhead movement puts them on guard…Cast beyond the target and drag it slowly into the bed,” Grigsby continued. Making the lure move in the bed is also a way of getting the fish’s attention and making it agitated.
The next thing a bas will often do to remove the intruding lure after the intimidation strategy fails, is by physically removing it. The fish will pick up the lure, usually without putting the lure entirely into its mouth, swim away from the bed, and drop the lure. This can often times be frustrating for the angler because the fish often times has the lure in its mouth but not the hook. However, as the fish does this a few times, and becomes more annoyed, the final step in the process occurs. Eventually, the fish will get so fed up with dealing with this lure, it will get it out of the way completely by eating it. This is when you set the hook, take your photos, and release the fish back to its bed.
Overall, the key to catching the bass on a bed is to annoy the fish enough that it simply eats your lure to get rid of it. It is important to keep in mind, that fish caught off beds cannot be foul hooked, and should always be retuned to the water quickly, as to protect the conservation of the bass species.
For more information on the best lures for the bed fishing, check out the video below.