Real estate agents and bass anglers share the same key to success: location is everything. The most successful bass anglers are those who know and understand the migration (travel) patterns of largemouth bass. They’re the fishermen who can pinpoint fish at any time of year. Of course, casting skill, equipment selection and other factors are important, but they mean nothing if you’re concentrating on areas where fish aren’t present.
Location, Location, Location
Finding bass isn’t as easy as you might think. Contrary to what many anglers believe, they are a migratory species. Seasonal changes, current weather patterns, water temperature, the presence of forage [food] and their need for food all affect their location. The general regions where bass hold during the year are identified and segmented by season.
Bass change their position more during spring than at any other time. They go through three different migrational stages -- prespawn, spawn and post-spawn. During each of these periods, however, bass are found in close proximity to spawning (bedding areas).
The prespawn is a great time to fish. Bass feed aggressively in preparation for the physically exhausting spawn and their location is predictable. Warming water temperatures trigger the prespawn, which occurs from late winter in the South to late spring in the northern tier of states. Bass position in staging [holding] areas adjacent to spawning sites. Prespawn staging areas are usually regions of 5 to 15 feet of water where cover [vegetation, stumps, timber] or structure [ledges, drop-offs and other shits in bottom terrain] is prevalent.
The spawn is also triggered by water temperature fluctuation. As the water continues to warm, bass seek out shallow, protected areas with direct access to sunlight for spawning. Spawning sites are usually situated close to shore in 1 to 6 feet of water. They’re often situated near cover – brush, a log or boulder – and in an area with easy access to deep water. In many lakes, the water does not warm up consistently, so not all bass spawn at the same time. Generally, the northwest region of a lake and the upper areas of reservoirs warm up first.
The post-spawn period is a time of recuperation. Female bass move off their beds into deeper water to rest and then feed. Again, due to temperature fluctuations in a waterway, not all fish move off the beds at the same time. When they do, they move into deeper water staging areas near the shallows. For a period of 10 days to two weeks after the spawn, the fish recuperate before feeding again. This can be a tough time to catch fish for large bass because most are female. However, smaller male bass will stay behind to guard the nests and are often easily caught in the shallows.
Summer means movement into deep water. When water temperatures hit their peak, bass focus on conserving energy and feeding with the least amount of effort by ambushing prey. Bass hold on structure or cover such as deep-water channel ledges and drop-offs, points, rock piles and submerged weed beds. They lay in wait for schools of baitfish that they can ambush. They will, however, leave deep water during the summer months in early morning and late afternoon. They travel to shallow flats, points and shorelines adjacent to their deep-water holding areas to feed.
When waters begin to cool, bass feeding activity heats up. In preparation for the winter months, bass move out of deep water and feed aggressively. They move back into staging areas near the shallows and hold on ledges and drop-offs along creek channels. Often, bass school together in the fall and push schools of baitfish into tight areas in backwater coves to feed. Long points that drop into deep-water areas of a creek are excellent locations to find bass.
In general, winter is tough on bass and bass fishermen. The cold water forces the fish deep and their metabolism slows dramatically. Bass feed much less and their travel is limited. They suspend in deep water on river channel drop-offs and over submerged stumps/timber and often form tight schools. Sustained warm weather can trigger periods of moderate activity, which can provide action for winter bass anglers.
How do you find these seasonal underwater bass havens? Study detailed lake maps that show bottom contours [structure], creek and river channels. Also quiz anglers familiar with the fishery and get out and explore on your own. Be observant, take notes and watch other fishermen.
If you’re a boat-based angler, nothing can replace fishing electronics. Today’s fish finders are amazing. They truly are your underwater eyes. High-end models offer 3-D imagery of the bottom structure, bottom hardness indicators, and can pinpoint cover, schools of baitfish and bass. Learning how to use electronics saves time and energy. They’re an investment few bass fishermen do without.
Patterns Within Patterns
Once you understand the basic migrational patterns of bass and you’re able to locate high-percentage fishing areas, you’ll begin to learn how to identify patterns within the patterns. For instance, if you find fish in staging areas near the shallows, you may realize that most of the fish you’re catching are located on ledges in 12 to 14 feet of water. You might further determine that the bass are hitting a specific lure color retrieved at a particular speed. These are patterns within patterns. Identifying them allows you to eliminate unproductive water, cover or structure, lures and even retrieves. Distinguishing these intricate patterns takes concentration, observation, patience and lots of time spent on the water.
The beauty of bass fishing is how intricate the sport really is, how much there is to learn and how challenging the sport can be. There’s no doubt, however, that the first critical key to basic bass fishing success is learning how to locate the fish.
piles and submerged weed beds. They lay in wait for schools of baitfish that they can ambush. They will, however, leave deep water during the summer months in early morning and late afternoon. They travel to shallow flats, points and shorelines adjacent to their deep-water holding areas to feed.