Right now, we are in the thick of the Spring/Spawn fishing season with bass in some phase of the spawn: pre-spawn, spawn, or post-spawn. In the middle area of the country, you could have bass in all three phases depending on how warm the weather has been. Those further south will be almost all post-spawn at this point and further north will be mostly all pre-spawn. This means that bass are
predominantly shallow, even some of those that have already spawned are still shallow guarding fry or sticking around for the upcoming shad and bluegill spawn. There are many options of baits that can be used during this time but the most seasoned fisherman, particularly professional fishermen, fish the same primary baits given their productivity during this time of year.
While not universal, some of the most popular are:
- Billed Crankbait
- Lipless Crankbait
- Bladed Jig
- Wacky Rig
- Walking Topwater
- Billed Crankbait
The first bait on the list is listed as a Billed Crankbait. Before the spawn, and generally in colder water, many anglers like using a round billed crankbait with a tighter wiggle or a flat side crankbait for fishing not quite shallow to medium depth ranges. The Spro Rockcrawler 55 and Norman Speed N-type crankbaits fit the first type and there are a few several flat side crankbaits out there like the Strike king
Chick Magnet and Rapala Ott’s Garage Slim
With the warmer water temperatures, and especially in muddier water, and around the spawn, most anglers use a Square Bill Crankbait. This is especially true for post-spawn bass when they seem to be more focused on the shad and bluegill which spawn shortly after bass. I really like the River2Sea Biggie Smalls and Biggie Poppa, which are two different sizes of the same square-bill crankbait. There have been times during the post-spawn where the only bait I could get the fish to bite was this crankbait, in the Abalone Shad color, which perfectly matched the color of the shad in the area. The Strike King KVD 1.5 and 2.5 square bills, as well as other brands of square bills, can work well too.
The lipless crankbait has been a mainstay in both the spring and fall for years. It is a noted bait for use around and over grass which bass can use for staging before and after the spawn. In areas without grass, it can be used very efficiently on shallow flats which are notorious bass spawning areas. There are many types of lipless crankbaits on the market now with the Bill Lewis Original Rat-L-Trap being one of the originals. Others with noted followings are the Lucky Craft LV500, Strike King Red Eye Shad, and Berkely Warpig.
The spinnerbait is a time tested bait during the spring, especially when there is some chop on the water, and can be used in the entire “shallow” water column. It can also be a big fish bait. The spinnerbait, for all its appearances, is a very complex bait that is difficult to master given the combination of factors that come into play with the weight, blade size, blade combination (or lack there
off), blade color, skirt color, and trailer or not. However, once deciphered, or with trial and error and a little luck, it can be an outstanding Spring bait. It can be fished effectively in clear to muddy water and often is one of the few effective baits in muddy water. It usually is fished around cover like wood or grass and often in Spring with very large blades. Tips for fishing them abound but Jason Christie, a noted Spinnerbait angler, has put out a guide in conjunction with Booyah on the use of Spinnerbaits and helped develop the Booyah Covert Series of Spinnerbaits. He also recently put out a Spinnerbait Masterclass video that is well worth watching. In colder, muddy water, he really likes the Booyah Covert Series ¾ oz single Colorado spinnerbait which comes with a size 6 Colorado blade.
It can be difficult to find spinnerbaits with such large blades unless you are shopping online and, often, more serious anglers will build their own or modify ones with spare hardware accordingly. The Spinnerbait category is one of the more populated categories of baits with entries from many companies but some of the noted Spinnerbait brands beyond Booyah are War Eagle, Stanley, Accent, and Terminator P1 Pro series.
For some anglers, on initial thought, a jig for shallow water fishing does not immediately connect. It is considered a bottom fishing and slow-moving bait. However, for years now, anglers have been swimming jigs around grass and other shallow cover areas. Jigs encompass a large category and are a much more complicated bait than usually given credit for. Head shape, size, material, weight, color, eye tie, skirt composition, and trailer all factor into how a jig works. In addition to swimming jigs, flipping and pitching around shoreline cover and boat docks, even if the water is deeper, is often considered a “shallow water” technique. A jig can be a very versatile bait and perform double or triple duty serving as a flipping jig that an angler can then swim out of cover and then, dropped down the edge of the cover and fish effectively on the bottom all in the same cast. Further, do not rule out using a jig to fish shallow water on the bottom worked slowly around cover such as stumps and ditches in shallow flats, as well as around areas with suspected bedding fish, especially if those fish cannot be seen. Just about every bait company makes multiple types of jigs and there are many, many variations out there including many high-quality options from smaller manufacturers or mom and pop operations.
The bladed jig or Chatterbait is another excellent Springtime moving bait. It is certainly a jig as the name indicates but it is pretty radically different in how it is fished. It can be fished slowly in and around less gnarly cover like worming a crankbait but is often fished faster looking for a reaction bite. It can be fished similarly to how anglers often stroke a regular jig, ripping it up off the bottom and then letting it fall back down, or it can be fished just like a crankbait or swimbait. With the significant thump, it puts out during the retrieve this bait works well in stained or slightly dirty water and others claim that it can function as a clear water crankbait.
The original Chatterbait, which is where the name comes from, is made by Z-man and they make many other versions of it as well. Arguably, the most popular version is the Chatterbait Jackhammer designed in conjunction with Japanese lure maker Evergreen international. Many anglers claim this to be their favorite. Other notable versions are the Picasso Shock Blade, which was favored by Aaron Martens, and the Strike King Thunder Cricket. Trailers have become increasingly more varied but two of the more popular versions are the Z-man Razor Shadz and Yamamoto Zako. Other trailers frequently used are flapping craw-type trailers and swimbait trailers. I have even heard of anglers using tubes as a trailer for their bladed jigs without the skirt.
A wacky rig is an essential tool in your arsenal around the spawn, and, really, can be throughout the summer. It is indispensable starting around the time fish move shallow to make their beds, through spawn to trigger spawning bass to bite, and into pre-spawn. It is a finesse technique that can catch fish when almost nothing else does. It can catch large numbers of fish as well as quality fish. In the pre-spawn, it can be dynamite around staging areas with structure or boat docks. Late in the pre-spawn/early in the spawn, it works well on shallow flats and points close to spawning areas or in spawning areas. During the spawn, it can be used to sight fish in clear water or fished blindly in likely areas in more stained water. In the post-spawn, you can fish the same staging areas as during the pre-spawn. Some fish stay in these shallower areas for the bluegill and shad spawns while others move towards areas closer to their summertime haunts. The fish that stay shallow can be targeted with the wacky rig around those bluegill and shad spawning areas. The fishing moving towards deeper water can still be caught targeting bluffs and steep ledges in the migration path from spawning areas. Soft plastics used for wacky rigging start with the standard stick worm such as Yamamoto Senkos, Yum Dingers, or Bass Pro Shops Sticko.
For durability, I really like the Z-man Zinkers and no o-rings are needed given their extreme durability. Other finesse worms such as the Zoom Finesse Worm or Netbait Finesse Worm are also frequently used. Creativity can take place with this rig as well as using various other soft plastics such as the Z-man Bang Sticks. According to Randy Blaukat, downsizing and using a Zoom Centipede for the Wacky Rig is The Most Deadly Spring Bass Technique Ever. It makes your offering stand out from the others. Check out his Youtube video on it.
Most bass fishermen would agree that topwater fishing is one of their favorite and most exciting ways to fish. Near the spawn and post-spawn, it is hard to beat a walking topwater. It can also be effectively used as a search bait and worked quickly enough to cover a lot of water. Walking topwater can work well on shallow cruising bass before they settle on the beds, as well as bass already on the bed. In these situations, when the water is too murky to see them, it can be used to get the bass to show themselves and confirm that there is bass in the area. Later, it can be used to trigger fish guarding fry after they have hatched.
In the post-spawn, it can be used to target females that have pulled off the bed after spawning and repositioned to the first depth change, or drop, and suspended. This can be on secondary or main lake points near spawning pockets or flats. It can also work very well around boat docks that serve as staging areas as bass move out of the shallow spawning areas towards their summer haunts. This can be particularly true during the shad spawn as the shad like to spawn near or against floating docks. It can also call up bass in deeper water along the edges of bluffs, especially in clear water. The Heddon Zara Spook is a classic walking topwater that has been used for years. More recently, the Lucky Craft Sammy, River2Sea Rover, and Megabass Giant Dog X have become very popular and developed a strong following.
While the above-listed baits are more classic and mainstream techniques, there is always room for creative uses of different presentations that many people have not considered. Doing something different, as we have heard countless times, can produce fantastic results. Some surprise or secret Spring shallow baits to consider are:
A Tail Weighted French Fry
This idea comes courtesy of Mike Iaconelli who fully details the technique here. Mike uses a Berkley Powerbait Lugworm Texas-rigged, using a thin wire straight shank hook (like the VMC Neko hook) with the flat surface down and a nail weight in the tail. Rigged like this, the bait glides backward if allowed to fall on the semi-slack line. According to Mike, spawning fish find this bait absolutely irresistible due to its unique action. French Fry type baits to consider besides the Lugworm would be the 6th Sense Ned Fry Worm, Strike King KVD OPT Supa Fry, and Bass Pro Shops Dr. Fin-Eke Worm.
The Tokyo Rig hit the mainstream a couple of years ago and to the best of my knowledge was introduced by Mike Iaconelli who learned about it during a trip to Japan. Ott Defoe just recently detailed the technique for use during the spawn. The rig sets the bait above the weight like a drop shop but much shorter and uses heavier weights. Throwing a swimbait on the Tokyo Rig into a bed allows for an angler to let the bait sit in the bed and move it without changing the position. This mimics a fish sitting on the bed feeding on the eggs which triggers a reaction of the bass to guard the bed.
Author: Adam Rinaldi
Photo Credit: Matt Cook – mcook_fishing