Pre-spawn movements and patterns begin when the water temperature reaches 50-52, which is normally in mid to late March here in the Northern VA area. On the Upper Bay MD it’s the first week in April which marks the spawning of the stripers on the Susquehanna Flats – written by BayBassBryan
This year (2015) I’d expect the 50 degree mark to occur in the first 10 days of April. By the time the water temperature has reached 58-60, the bass have already been scouting out the bedding areas and buck bass (small males) will be stacked in the shallows, eager to build a bed for a female.
Often times these smaller bass will not find a female wanting to spawn and their efforts will go to waste. Once the water has reached and steadied in the low to mid 60’s the bass will begin their song and dance of meeting partners and spawning on the beds created by either the male or female. I’ve seen very large females build and guard their own bed and their only involvement with the male was for the sole purpose of fertilization.
The pre-spawn patterns and movements are dictated by the biological clock of the bass which is their instinct to reproduce. The variables which affect their clock are water temperature, daylight hours, and the movements and habits of other species such as crappie which spawn just prior to the largemouth bass. Just as the bass and bears and other animals feed heavily in anticipation for the winter, the bass will also feed heavily in preparation for the spawn, especially the females.
MOVEMENTS- Bass will begin moving out of their wintering areas when the water temps reach and hold in the mid 40’s. They will begin wandering (often in large schools) to the staging areas of the lake or river which are popular spawning grounds. They will use migration routes the same way other animals use such as geese. Often times, it’s the same routes, year after year guided by the larger and older bass who are the school/pack leaders, similar to elephants and many other animals. The migration routes on 20-100 acre lakes may be a few hundred yards. On a river system such as the Potomac they may be 1 or 2 miles. Along their migration to the spawning grounds they will often follow the channels which provide the most cover for down periods and for ambushing prey as they travel. In shad lakes, these migration routes will also be the heavily traveled routes of the shad as well.
Your best bet in finding an awesome pre-spawn staging area is to find deep water access adjacent to a main lake pocket or creek within 100 yards. Points along the drops of a channel edge are often the ticket. What you’re looking for here in the form of mapping, is close contour lines. These lines represent steep drops and often times when you have steep drops, you have ROCK along the ledge. The closer the contour lines, the more rock you can expect. The reason the bass like to stay close to deeper water during pre-spawn movements is the weather in the early spring is often very unpredictable and water temps can drop 5-7 degrees in less than 2 days. I’ve seen dozens of bass up shallow cruising and making beds on local lakes on a Monday before a cold front, and by Wednesday morning they are gone. They didn’t go far…they will be holding back in their pre-spawn staging area, their safety zone. You’ll hear that certain areas of the lake (cardinal direction wise) are better than others and to an extent I find this to be true but I’ve been able to find bass spawning in the NE coves, SE coves and W coves of a lake. Yes certain areas will warm quicker, but this does not mean that all the bass will flock to this area to spawn. I’ve found that larger bass will often be alone and not close to any other spawning bass where as smaller males will line up on a bank like bluegill during the spawn.
The map above depicts a lake in VA which I’ve never fished before and I have no prior knowlege of at all. By looking at the lakes contours I already know where I’d be spending much of my time. As you can see the down lake area offers two main deep water staging areas where I’d estimate 80% of the lakes bass are currently staging. There is a deep creek channel to the north with definate ledges and a very small area where the lakes 14′ flat drops into 18-20′. This area is loaded up with fish and as the water warms into the mid 40’s the bass will begin to make their way uplake into the pre-spawn staging areas using the prime migration routes which also may include the shoreline directly above the 14′ mark, although I did not mark it. Notice the close contour lines along the southern (bottom page) bank which has 12′ right off the bank. Here I’d expect to find rock and wood cover and the bass will use this steep dropping bank to travel up lake. They may also use the lakes main portion to travel uplake as well especially if there is cover/structure along the way which is to be determined. The feeder creek uplake will bring warm well oxygenated warter into the spawning coves this spring and create a feeding frenzy as the creeks food/nutrients will attract many other species such as bluegill, crappie, and crayfish. The upperlake regions in 4-6′ will be prime spinnerbait and lipless crank areas and covering water would be my main goal. There is surely wood cover jammed up on this flat as well as stumps. Find the stumps and wood cover and you’ll find the bass on this flat.
Notice where the two circles meet that are labled “Winter Staging”. You’ve got 15-20′ right off the bank in that creek channel. There is guaranteed to be some quality bass in that hole and possibly a very lage concentration of wintering fish. There is most defiantely some very hard bottom there (rock).
It appers to be a cliff bank and any downed trees on this bank are definately going to hold suspended fish nearly all year round except during the spawn.
You can notice the darker shade of blue just above where the two circles overlap.
That area is there I’d start my day this week if I was on this lake in the second week of March.
Reprinted, courtesy of www.baybass.com
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