Liven up the bite with these five spawning season tactics.

Swimbaits, Senkos, lizards and other soft baits are the all rage during spawning season, but don’t tell that to hardbait ace Bernie Schultz, who plucked this bed fish on a trusty plug.

Spawning season offers some of the year’s best opportunities for the bass of a lifetime, but there are no guarantees. In fact, without a deep and diverse playbook, these wily, wary fish will leave you scratching your head. Avoid such frustration with these tactics:

SWIM TEAM:

A swimbait may not be your first thought for bed fishing, but it should be a regular element of your game for two reasons: First, trolling through likely spawning areas can often do more harm than good by spooking unseen fish. Staying off the area and fan casting a Gambler Big EZ, YUM Pulse or Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper will reveal the key spots when bed fish swirl at the passing annoyance. Moreover, targeting a visible fish with repetitive swimbait passes is a good way to redline her aggression.

Use an open hook jighead for relatively open area, but for much of Florida’s vegetated spawning zones, a belly-weighted wide-gap swimbait hook with a screw-in bait holder performs best. Also fitting this plan are swim jigs and bladed jigs. Fitted with swimming trailers, these leadhead baits protected by weedguards can plow through the thick stuff.

LOW AND SLOW:

During the PanAm Black Bass Championship last February on Lake Okeechobee, Roland and Scott Martin helped Team USA score gold by figuring out that fish spawning next to reed heads preferred lightly-weighted, Texas-rigged Yamamoto Senkos and D Shads dragging slowly by the cover.

CONSERVATION NOTE: While research has shown largemouth bass to be hardy, resilient creatures, treat these bedding fish with respect and care. The little males are usually firecrackers, but consider the stress the females already undergo and do your best to return them to the water gently.

ONE-TWO PUNCH:

We’d like for that first jig or Texas-rigged lizard or creature bait to earn the bite, but persistent casts—augmented by a few full-contact bumps—from a big, bulky bait will push a bed fish to the limit. You’ll know she’s about to go when she rapidly changes her posture and proximity to the intruder. If she won’t commit, switch to a smaller, more subtle bait like a small tube, finesse jig or small worm like Z-Man’s Finesse TRD (Ned rig or Texas rig) and get ready to set the hook.

SNEAK ATTACK:

Classic horror movie technique: The doomed turn around and come face-to-face with the bad guy/ monster. Same thing works with bed fish. You pitch your jig or Texas rig behind the fish and when they spin around to see something sneaking up, their response is often swift and decisive.

HOVER AND HOLD:

Bass spend so much effort repelling the egg-munching advances of bluegill, turtles and other nest raiders that the appearance of a stationary intruder really messes with their head. No direct assault, just that eerie presence of a potential threat casing the place.

Dropshots nail this role with a steady stance that can park a finesse worm or minnow/bream shape just about eyeball level with a defensive bass. Hold it steady, give it a few shakes and if the fish won’t commit, shorten your leader to drop the bait closer to the egg zone. FS

Entice the bite further with scented bait, like these ones here.

A tough fluorocarbon mainline can make a big difference in preventing break-offs in deep cover, click here for more details.

Florida Sportsman Magazine February 2019

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