Understanding Spawning Largemouth Bass

In the world of bass fishing, the arrival of spring means spawning bass. Understanding this important life event will equip an angler with the knowledge to read the spawn and make the necessary adjustments in fishing technique to catch fish.

Exceptions to bass spawning in the spring do occur — such as in South Florida when bass may spawn just about year-round. Water temperature is the most critical factor in determining their move to the spawning grounds. When water temperatures on the main body of water approach 60 degrees (temperatures will be a bit higher in the protected areas that bass spawn), you can be sure that bass have begun spawning.

Moynagh with a bass caught at an FLW tour event earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of FLW Outdoors)
Jim Moynagh with a bass caught at an FLW tour event earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of FLW Outdoors)

The other often considered major influence on spawning is the moon phase. It is widely believed that bass prefer to spawn within a few days of either the full or new moon. However, I tend to disagree with the importance of the moon. I know in Minnesota, for example, it has little effect. Perhaps in the deep South it is more important, but I haven’t observed it making much of a difference there either. I’m not saying this belief, held by even many of the best bass pros alive, is wrong, but I just haven’t observed it for myself. Water temperature is it for me, however, I will continue monitoring the moon.

Where Do Bass Spawn?
Largemouths will spawn in water typically less than 6 feet deep. On gin clear lakes that allow light penetration much deeper, the bass also may spawn deeper. But they don’t choose just anywhere in the lake with this depth; they have other needs.

Most spawners will seek out protected areas that are sheltered from the main body of water. Sheltered coves, bays, and canals warm sooner than the main body and are more suitable for hatched fry as far as food and cover is concerned.

Specific nest sites in these areas are positioned where the bass can fan away the top layer of silt down to a hard surface. I’ve seen bass select sites that include: lily pad roots, cattail stalks, shell beds, logs, stumps, and even a recliner chair among other man-made oddities.

What Do They Do When They Spawn?
Before actual spawning begins, a nest site is chosen according to the parameters previously listed. I find that bass will often pair themselves before a site is actually selected. Before I witness several beds, I’ll see pairs cruising together in potential spawning areas. Then the next day I’ll come back and find many beds made along with active spawning. The act of spawning for an individual pair of bass seems to last no more than a few hours. Many times I’ve come across bass spawning in the morning and returned in the early afternoon to discover that the female already has left. Once she’s gone (she may not dispose of all the eggs in one episode), the male remains on the nest to protect the eggs and fry from predators. He may stand guard for up to two weeks!

How Does Weather Influence The Spawn?
It’s plain and simple. Warm, stable weather will draw bass in to spawn, while a bad cold front will postpone all spawning activity until the next stretch of warm weather.

In fact, a severe front may put bass back into pre-spawn patterns for a few days. That reminds me of the Bassmaster Top 150 I fished a few years ago on Lake Russell, Ga. I had been doing extremely well during practice by fishing bedding areas in the backs of coves. Unfortunately, a major cold front struck and my pattern disintegrated for competition. Successful patterns for the competition included spinnerbaiting the points and riprap; a pattern more like pre-spawn fishing.

Of course, understanding the spawn is just one facet of catching bass at this time. There are many tricks specific to this period that help to catch these fish. But as most anglers would agree, knowing where the fish are and what they are doing is three-fourths of the battle.


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