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Fishing the Spawning Cycle
Tim Barlow

On Oklahoma’s area lakes during the month of May it is possible to catch bass in all stages of the spawn. While most of these fish will be post spawn and spawning, there are always a few latecomers that will be pre spawn. It is extremely important to determine the phase of reproductive cycle for the bass. Begin fishing in traditional spawning areas. Carefully inspect any fish caught. Was the tail bloody? Did it have a bloated stomach? Had it already spawned? The answers to these questions will determine where and how to start fishing.

                                    Pre Spawn

Pre spawn fish should not have any abrasions or sores. Typically they are caught on secondary points in coves toward the back of docks and on the top of channel bends that swing close to the bank. Shad is the predominate food source for pre spawners. This makes shad imitating bait such as Spinner Baits, Flukes, and shallow running Crank Baits a logical choice. Remember bass are very finicky at this time, so try all of these baits in the areas described above. The fish will let you know which one they prefer.


Spawning bass are usually in one of three patterns: cruising the bank, locked up on a nest, or guarding the fry. Water clarity of one foot or greater is a requirement for cruising fish. Since this is a type of sight fishing, line size and presentation are also critical. Light line such as a 10# Berkley Vanish paired with a quality 6’6” to 7’ medium spinning rod and reel works best for me. Small Tubes Texas Rigged or weightless is a high percentage bait under these conditions. Nesting bass can be caught in various ways other than sight fishing. These stained or murky water fish will build nests in the same locations as their clear water cousins, only shallower. These locations are generally the back of a protected cove. Just about any hard surface will do for laying eggs. Finness Worms, Carolina Rigs, and Small Jigs all can produce strikes.

Finally the eggs hatch. For a short time both male and female viciously guard the fry. But soon the female will leave to begin post spawn recovery and the security of the fry is left to the male. Ripping a shallow crank bait or spinner bait through these schools of tiny fish will draw some savage strikes. Since perch are the predominate predator of the fry, colors that mimic perch should be used. I have found the Bagley Small Fry Bream with its natural shape and colors to be a top producer.

                                    Post Spawn

Now that the stress and strain of spawning is behind them, most bass will migrate back toward deeper water. The bass will make several stops to rest on the way to deeper water and will suspend around cover to feed. Since these fish are usually suspended they can be difficult to catch. By now an early morning top water bite is beginning to establish. Buzz Baits, Chuggers, and Spook Baits now come into play. As the sun gets high and the top water bite dies, tempt these suspended fish with medium running shad colored Crank Baits or try lightly weighted Fluke. Swim and twitch the Fluke about one foot beneath the surface bringing it through as much cover as possible. This tactic works well when fishing is tough.

The consistently successful angler during the spawn is very aware of his surroundings. Each fish caught is carefully examined and location notes taken. This helps solve the puzzle of where and how to fish. Armed with this knowledge and tuning in to your surroundings greatly increases your odds of a successful outing during the spawning cycle.

Until next time.
Tim Barlow