Register now on PaFlyFish.com! Login
HOME FORUM BLOG PHOTOS LINKS


Blog > PaFlyFish.com > Pre-Spawn Bass Fishing

Pre-Spawn Bass Fishing

Published by Dave Weaver [Dave_W] on 03/28/2017 (1876 reads)
While most Pennsylvania fly fishermen target river smallmouths during the summer, bass can be successfully targeted all year and the "pre-spawn" is among the best times, especially if you're after large fish. When water temps hit the mid 40s - this would usually coincide with mid March here in the southcentral part of the state - river smallies become noticeably more active and move up out of their winter hibernacula. These winter locations are usually the deepest part of a river, often the low, deep, slack water in front of dams. As bass become more active, they start to spread out a bit but still tend to eschew current.

By this time of year, they start to feed quite a bit more but, unlike summer when most of the bass lay up in front of boulders and mid river structure and aggressively hit poppers, my experience has been that pre-spawn bass are shoreline denizens. In part, this is simply due to the higher, cloudier, water conditions so often prevalent in March and April. However, this preference for specific shoreline locations makes locating pre-spawn river bass more predictable. When you catch a bass, there's usually more in the same spot. Often these are large females staging to move to eventual spawning sites later in May.

Finding these spots starts in summer. If you've got a bass river nearby, walk the bank during summer and familiarize yourself with the shape of the shoreline when the water is low and clear. Come high water, you'll know where to go. Perhaps the ideal pre-spawn location would be a point of land that projects out into the river, especially if there are large chunk rocks or boulders on it. Oftentimes there are river willows or vegetation that grow on the point in summer, but that often has water flowing thru it this time of year. If downstream from this point, there is an eddy (there almost always is) and the water is at least 3-4 feet deep, it's worth checking out. If the water in the eddy is very calm with little current or swirling action, and if there are boulders or woody debris along the shoreline of the eddy - it's a hotspot! Mouths of feeder creeks are usually good too.

drawing
Bass stage right on the current break along shoreline eddies this time of year. A typical hot spot would look something like this diagram. Image courtesy D. Weaver


These eddies don’t have to be large. I have taken multiple fish in the upper teens over the years from a single eddy that is only about 4 feet deep, maybe twenty feet in length, and the current break is only four or five feet from the shoreline. The key is slack or very slow water swirling back. When water temps are still cold, usually under 40 degrees, bass are likely in the slack water in the deepest part of the eddy, right on the bottom. As temps move up to and over 40 degrees, the bass move out and sit right along the edge of the current break where the faster water is moving as can be seen in the accompanying diagram.

Most of the time, I like a 7 or 8WT fly rod with floating line and a 8-9' tapered leader. Don’t go lighter than 12 lb test for your leader unless you absolutely have to. I typically use 14 or 15 lb. test. Despite smallies' reputation for being jumpers, in reality big smallies, especially in colder water, are bulldogs. They fight down and dirty close to the bottom and cover. You'll need a stout tippet to keep 'em out of the woody debris and shoreline brush.

bassDuring the months from about November until April, I prefer minnow imitating flies, the estimable Clouser Minnow is always dependable. For the (usually) cloudy water this time of year, black or chartreuse/orange is tough to beat. Many gear bass anglers like a black hair jig for early spring bass. I usually keep my flies for this time of year a bit on the smaller size, typically about 3-5 inches in length.

For rigging, place a large strike indicator at the base of the leader, or maybe a foot or so down the leader from the junction with the fly line. A "thingamabobber" would likely work well. I prefer the large, split, peg type bobbers you can get at the kids' fishing section at big box stores. Roll cast this rig out; you're aiming to get the fly to drop right at the outer edge of the eddy's slack water along the current break. This is often the money spot where bass are positioned during the pre-spawn. Roll cast your rig and do a mental five or ten-count to allow your fly to sink. In effect, you're just fishing a jig under a bobber. The key is to keep your retrieve slow. The indicator will suspend your streamer in the zone. Smallies often scrutinize baits/flies very carefully, then suck 'em in and turn away. Strikes are subtle this time of year and I find a big, floating strike indicator really helps detect these subtle strikes. When that indicator budges, do a strip strike and fight the fish hard. Despite the light takes, large bass are much more catchable on flies in the early spring than summer in my opinion. Big bass see a constant barrage of tube lures, plugs, and other stuff raining down on ‘em in summer and they can get shy or nocturnal. An eighteen-inch river bass in Pennsylvania is probably ten to twelve years old and has seen it all. In the early spring, I believe trophy sized smallmouths are just more willing to feed on flies after a long winter.

While it's easy to get distracted by the prime trout fishing this time of year, don't ignore river bass. Scout out a shoreline eddy on your favorite river, watch those water temps, and then present a fly low and slow along the current break. River smallies are definitely active now and this is a great time of year to catch big fish.
  Send article

Navigate through the items
Previous article Paflyfish 2017 Spring Jamboree Weekend Fishing Yellowstone Park: A Seasonal Primer Next item
The comments are owned by the author. We aren't responsible for their content.
Author Thread



Site Content
Sponsors
Stay Connected

twitterfeed.com facebook instagram RSS Feed

Polls
Angling Trade E-Survey: How Many Outdoor Print Magazines Do You Subscribe To?
None. Nada. Zip. 50% (46)
One or two. 32% (30)
Three or four. 13% (12)
More than four. 3% (3)
_PL_TOTALVOTES
The poll closed at 2017/10/27 11:42
Comments?





Copyright 2017 by PaFlyFish.com | Privacy Policy| Provided by Kile Media Group | Design by 7dana.com