The postspawn period has a reputation of being the worst of times for both the bass and bass fisherman. The bass have just finished with the rigors of spawning, while doing very little feeding.
But veteran anglers know that postspawn fishing can be productive during this late spring/early summer season and, at some point, they will enjoy a feeding frenzy usually referred to as the “postspawn blitz.”
In actuality, the postspawn period can be the best and worst of fishing seasons, a time when sluggish bass primarily intent on recuperating are transformed into feeding machines.
“Most people won't believe it when I say postspawn fishing can be outstanding,” says Joe Thomas, a top touring pro from Ohio. “My best advice is not to give up on fishing during postspawn.”
The key to scoring in the postspawn period is blending an understanding of what is occurring with the proper techniques in order to make the bass bite.
Timing Is The Trick
Knowing where the bass staged prior to the spawn is key to locating them afterward.
The postspawn season varies significantly for different regions of North America. For example, it may occur in Florida as early as late January/early February. Move north to the latitude of Georgia and Texas and it is usually March or early April; the postspawn period happens later in the year the further north you go. The first week of May brings postspawn activity to Ohio, but it could be July before it reaches upper-state New York.
“The calendar isn't real accurate when it comes to pegging when postspawn occurs,” explains Thomas, a former Red Man All-American champion who majored in fisheries biology in college. “It can even vary from one end of a large lake to the other, because the northwest coves in a lake usually warm the fastest.
“The best way is to pay attention to what is happening on your lake. The fish in those northwest coves will spawn first for anywhere from three to six weeks. The weather will affect the length of the spawning season. You should be able to pretty accurately tell when the spawn has ended and the fish are postspawn.”
“The first thing you have to do is watch your water temperature gauge,” adds Florida's Shaw Grigsby, a multiple winner on the B.A.S.S. circuit. “As the water temperature warms up, the fish start to spawn at around 62 degrees. And when you start seeing 70-degree water, you can figure that most of the spawn has already taken place.
“At about 70 or 72 degrees, you are looking at a postspawn situation. The majority of the postspawn will take place over about the same length of framework as the spawn. On most lakes, there is about a month or two months of postspawn activity.”
Thomas emphasizes that you can also use water temperature to know when the postspawn era is over. After it reaches the high 70s or early 80s, most of the bass will be locked firmly into their summertime pattern and related to deep-water main-lake structure.
Where Do They Go?
For many anglers, the behavior of bass immediately after they leave the nests remains a complete mystery.
Based on Thomas' experience and observations, the bass become sluggish just after they abandon the bed and their fry. For a three- to seven-day period, the fish are inactive and focused solely on recuperating in the same water where they have spawned. During this time, the big females are most difficult to catch.
The best advice for finding and fooling postspawn fish is to cover lots of water with a spinnerbait or other fast-moving lure.
The next step is to move from the shallow water to a more comfortable depth (usually 8 to 12 feet) and re-establish their feeding patterns. After recuperating, the bass gradually become more active until the later stage of postspawn, when they will feed heavily.
“Postspawn fish are not going to weigh near what they normally would,” Thomas says. “I've caught some long, lean females a few days after the spawn with tails that hadn't healed up yet. And they heal pretty fast. They are going to be lean and mean. Don't plan on catching any world records during this time.”
Most anglers know that the female bass are the first to leave the nests and enter into a postspawn mode. The males will stay around and guard the fry for days, which means they are easier to catch than their mates.
Before and during the spawn, ultra-protective bass feed on lizards, leeches and eels. But Thomas believes most postspawn fish focus more on baitfish like shad and bluegill in the days that follow. Then comes the postspawn feeding blitz.
“Postspawn really gets a bad rap from most fishermen,” states David Wharton, a former guide and national tournament winner from Texas. “Postspawn can bring some incredible action, particularly late in the season.”
“After recuperating for a while, bass are really hungry because they expended a lot of energy during the spawn without eating much,” Grigsby agrees. “The fish won't be stacked up to where you can catch a bunch in one spot, but you can catch them well because they really start feeding up.”
Grigsby believes that the main reason why postspawn is considered such an infamous time for anglers is mistakenly blamed on the bass' sluggish behavior. The biggest problem, he says, is that the fish have a tendency to be scattered—a completely different behavioral pattern from their prespawn mode (when they congregate in certain places).
Pockets in emergent vegetation are prime ambush areas for bass that are chowing down after recovering from the spawn.
In other words, postspawn fishermen cannot pull into a cove and catch 10 bass without pulling up the trolling motor in typical prespawn style. Instead, postspawn usually means running a series of pockets to catch a fish or two in each spot.
“To me, the real advantage provided by the postspawn is that it puts the fish in predictable places,” says Thomas. “You will find them in the same places they stopped and staged during prespawn.
‘My best postspawn baits are fast-moving lures like a Pop-R, a soft-plastic jerkbait, a hard jerkbait like a Lucky Craft Flash Minnow and a spinner bait. I know a lot of fish are caught on a worm during postspawn, but I like minnow-imitators better.
“There is really some fine top-water fishing (available) during the postspawn. A fast-moving top-water bait gets both a feeding strike and a reaction strike—even in fairly deep water. Particularly early in the morning and late in the afternoon when the fish are feeding heavily, the fish will come up for a top-water bait.”
A minnow-shaped jerkbait like Strike King’s new Wild Shiner is a highly effective postspawn lure, according to Grigsby, because it can be used to cover a considerable portion of the postspawn water column. Early in the season it can be worked along the surface in two feet of water; it can also be weighted to reach a depth of 10 to 12 feet.
“The key during postspawn is to cover a lot of water,” he says. “Put the trolling motor down and cover everything in a cove from the bank on out.”
Locating and catching postspawn bass doesn't have to be such a mystery. Armed with the insight provided by these experts, you can take full advantage of some surprisingly fine action during what is considered by most to be bass fishing's dead zone.