The Pulse

Pre-spawn to Spawn Smallmouth Bass 03/28/2015

Every smallmouth junkie dreams of the spring. Two of the most exciting fast paced bites of the year happen in May, the spawn and the prespawn jerkbait frenzy. Both of these bites yield some of the largest smallies of the year making May that much more special. But spring can also be one of the slowest times of year. There is a significant gap in both time and water temperature that separate these two bites. Smallmouth are on the move this time of year and, hourly weather changes along with endless other factors dictate location as well as presentation. Learn to play these variables throughout the spring and eliminate your slow days as well as putting more numbers of big bronzebacks in your boat.

In the last two weeks I have seen water temperatures jump from 52 to near 70 degrees meaning one thing, these fish have been in constant change in both location and mood. We saw a fast warming trend bring the water temp up from 46 to 55. Then we experienced cool nights dropping the temp back a few degrees and holding it there a few days. During a warming trend smallmouth will pull shallow and roam around near spawning locations. The best spots to look at are deeper spawning locations close to the main lake. These fish feel comfortable holding on the deeper spots and are much more catchable because of this. During a spring cold front fish can seemingly disappear from the shallows. They aren’t deep and they aren’t shallow. Puzzling I know. The best tactic to contact the fish you have been on during the warming trend is jerkbaiting over deep water near the shallow structure in which they spawn. We have caught piles of fish over 100 yards away from spawning areas over depths of 30, 40 and 50 feet of water. You won’t ever mark these fish on your electronics but you must have the confidence to experiment. No need for your bait to dive deeper than 5 feet either. These fish are sitting very high in the water column. Two very hard jerks and a 3 to 5 second pause seems to be the best cadence.

As the water begins to warm again into the mid to upper fifties fish will be holding in the same vicinity as their beds. They don’t have feeding on their minds at all. Fish are merely shallow to spawn. To get them to bite I fish at two different ends of the presentation spectrum. Extremely erratic jerkbaiting and dragging plastics very very slowly. On sunny days with no wind plastics are always the go to. My favorite is the TriggerX Hodad rigged on a 3/16th ounce head or a 3/8th ounce pending depth. On days with no wind or cloud cover fish are not as willing to move up in the water column to hit a bait. If you are fishing a jerkbait and seeing roaming fish all over the bottom but not catching any fish it’s a good sign it’s time to drag/bounce a plastic. The bites are very soft. Rarely will you feel a fish hit but simply swim along with it. 10lb braid with an 8lb Fluorocarbon leader is key to feeling bites. The shallower you find these fish the more important long casts become. If you can see them they very rarely will they bite when they are roaming prespawn. Under most windy conditions the jerkbaits prevails. If you have wind and clouds even better. My most productive jerkbait this year has been the LiveTarget Rainbow Smelt and Gold Shiner in a 4.5 inch.

Once you see consistent water temperatures at 60 degrees for multiple days fish will stop hitting the jerkbaits and will be far more focused on spawning. From this point through the spawn small compact craw baits are the best presentations.

Consistent spring success relies on many variables. Play the prevalent weather conditions and consider your water temperature both what they were yesterday as well as today. With fish constantly on the move use these variables to key your presentation to the mood of the fish and catch more giant smallmouth more consistently this spring!