Patterning Bass and their Seasonal Behavior
By Tristin Williams
Growing up fishing I have found that there is one major asset that every kid needs to have when he is on the water; and that is confidence. Having confidence in the bait that you are fishing, but more importantly, having enough confidence in the area you are fishing and knowing that you can catch fish. The ability to thoroughly understand bass and their seasonal movements is key in the sport of bass fishing.
Bass are a very versatile, and ever changing species. They change with the seasons, whether it is their feeding patterns, activity level, location, or even their reproductive phases. We can first look at winter. Bass are very lethargic during this time due to frigid water temperatures. In the winter bass’ main forage is shad because all crawfish are burrowed in the winter.
You can find bass positioned on steeper banks close to deep water. These banks are often near channel swings or transitions where the bank composition changes such as from chunk rock to pea gravel. A transition is caused by a change in contour where deep water makes a quick break into shallower water and this is what causes a rock composition change.
Winter fishing may be slow but can be very rewarding. For some people, it is their off-season and they do not want to fish out in the harsh conditions. But these people do not know that winter can be the best time to catch a trophy bass. Smaller bass do not need as much food or energy to survive, but in the winter, it is larger, trophy bass that must stay more active feeding on shad to survive. These bass have a higher metabolism and their big bodies need more food to stay alive. Therefore winter anglers have a better chance to trick one of these big bass into biting when we use jerkbaits that mimic dying shad, an easy snack for bass.
As the water temperature begins to climb you will often start to see bass moving up to shallower water and further back into coves and pockets. From the winter to spring period bass will often begin to suspend on docks or stage on secondary points on their way to the backs of pockets. They will stop anywhere they can find a vantage point to attack baitfish.
Approaching prime time in the spring,bass are on their way to the backs of the pockets. Water temperatures are rising, and crawfish are becoming more available to bass. During this transition you can often find bass on the first break in the bank coming out of the very back end of a pocket. This can be a rock transition, a change in contour, a rock pile, or even a lay down. Now you can often target bass with precise baits such as pitching a jig or jerkbait to lay downs or you can search for bass with a moving bait such as a Wiggle Wart or spinnerbait.
When the bass have found shallow water in the backs of pockets the males will begin to build beds to spawn and big females will come and lay eggs. As the males sit on the eggs you will often find big females off the bed holding a little deeper or on the first break in the banks.
This is prime time for bed fishing and targeting giant bass on beds. At this stage, anglers can cruise the banks with the trolling motor looking for spawning bass, often in 1 to 3 feet of water. Once you have located these bass, it takes consistency and perseverance to convince one of these big fish to bite. Your best bet is usually to pitch a bluegill imitation bait on to the bed to aggravate the bass. This can be one of the most exhilarating ways to catch a bass!
Once the spawn is over near the end of spring time, the bass are on their way back to the main lake stopping on points or any bank that the fish spend the summer.
What I have described to you can be used as a guideline for bass’ seasonal movements from winter to spring in many lakes across the country. The same principles can be used if you do not have access to a boat or lakes in your area. Just follow the principle that when water temperature climbs near the end of winter time, bass are moving shallow quickly to spawn.