Understanding Late Pre-Spawn Patterns

Without a doubt, April is one of the favorite months for bass anglers throughout most of the country. The fish are moving shallow in large numbers and therefore tend to be easier to catch this time of year than at just about any other time.

Depending upon which area of the country you live in, the actual spawn can take place from February until June, so the actual transition from pre-spawn to spawn will vary greatly in terms of geography. Here in Missouri, right now it’s the late pre-spawn and that’s a fantastic time to fish.

I characterize late pre-spawn as the period when the morning water temperature is in the 55 to 59 degree range. It’s important to remember this time of year that water temperatures that start in the 50s can reach the low 60s on a sunny day in the backs of protected coves, but this is what I term “fake” temperature in terms of whether it influences the bass to spawn.

Once the morning water temperatures reach the mid to upper 50s in the backs of the coves, the bass will begin a massive movement towards these areas. The key is to understand how the fish “stage” before scouting nesting areas and pairing up with mates.

One of the first things you want to look for in any lake at this time of year is flatter coves. Although bass will stage and spawn in nearly every type of bank angle in the lake, the flatter ones that feature banks with a slope of less than 45 degrees are the prime locations. During the late pre-spawn, the fish will set up from the mouth of these coves to about two thirds of the way back most of the time. Depending upon the type of lake, it’s predominate cover, and water clarity, the fish will use different ambush points. For example, on a body of water like Lake Murray in South Carolina, Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, or Clear Lake in California, docks are a prime pre-spawn location for the bass. They may position on the outside corners, or suspend under them during the pre-spawn, then move to the back side of the dock during the actual spawn.

On waters like Lake Lanier in Georgia, Table Rock in Missouri, or Lake Cumberland in Kentucky, the fish will relate to rock shelves and boulders. The clear water and rock cover will put them on the bottom, hunting for crawdads in 10 to 20 feet of water. All they must do when the water warms is slip on to the back of the same cove and begin hunting for spawning locations.

Regardless of the area of the country you live in, or the lake you fish, here are three key points to remember during the pre-spawn:

  1. Look for the prime spawning location in a lake, and start off out from where you think they might spawn.
  2. Identify the available cover in the lake you are fishing in these type of areas.
  3. The best late pre-spawn areas usually are flatter, but close to deep water, and somewhat protected from the wind.

Lure selection for late pre-spawn fishing again depend on the type of lake and the water clarity.

In most lakes around the country, a jerkbait like the Megabass Vision Oneten is still a top choice. Swimbaits like the Megabass Spark Shad and Magdraft will also produce. Shaky heads, jigs and crawdad patterns in the S-Crank or Knuckle LD are also good bets.

I’ll use Table Rock lake as an example here. Right now, we are in the tail end of the late pre-spawn. I’ve been catching a lot of bass on the Megabass Vision 110 early in the morning on flatter secondary points in the spawning-type coves.

After about 10am, that bite dies off a bit, and I usually switch to a shaky head worm, fished about halfway back in the coves in 15 to 20 feet of water. If we have wind, I’ll also fish a 3’’ Megabass Spark Shad on a 1/8 oz. jighead, slowly swimming it through the same areas.

That was the same progression and combination many anglers used during the FLW tournament  last week on Lake Cumberland. Small swimbaits/jerkbaits and grubs fished in the same type of areas produced the better catches for many of the anglers.

One final thing to remember during the late pre-spawn is to pay close attention to the wind and cloud conditions. Late pre-spawners are notorious for getting active in wind and clouds, so when those factors ramp up fish your power baits like jerkbaits/crankbaits and spinnerbaits.

As you lose the wind and cloud cover, downsize and go with a slower presentation.

The good thing about fishing during the late pre-spawn is that the fish are generally biting because they are hungry. Most of the other times of the year, they bite out of curiosity, reflex, anger, competition or other non-feeding moods. That is why right now is my favorite time of the year. The fish are moving, shallow and hungry. Don’t miss out on this short window of opportunity and best of luck!