Fishing Tips

For Pre-Spawn Bass, Try Fishing Backwards

Posted 3/20/2014

Each spring when he’s searching for pre-spawn bass, Matt Herren uses a fish-finding process he occasionally describes as “fishing backwards.” The Yamaha Pro first locates prime spawning flats bass will be moving to, then moves out to slightly deeper water and structure where he believes bass will staging immediately prior to their move into the shallows.

“Fishing for pre-spawn fish is all about understanding the lake you’re fishing, and looking for migration routes the fish like to use,” explains Herren, who this year will have plenty of chances to find pre-spawners since he’s fishing both the Bassmaster® Elite and FLW® Tours. “These migration routes are relatively easy to locate, either by map study or visually studying the lake and your electronics, and it’s a great time to catch some of the large bass of the year.

“On highland-type reservoirs like Bull Shoals, Table Rock, and others, I’ll look for primary and secondary points in about eight to 15 feet of water when I move out from the spawning flats, while on shallow grass-type lakes like Sam Rayburn and Seminole I look for ditches and small creeks leading from the shallow flats out to the main river channel.”

These migration routes will be used by bass throughout the entire spring spawning season. Fish stage on them as they’re coming in and waiting for water temperatures to warm; other bass follow as the season continues, and still others use the same route back to deeper water after spawning. 

The sheer numbers of fish using these routes on their way to spawn can be staggering. At a recent Bassmaster® Elite tournament on Georgia’s Lake Seminole, for example, Yamaha Pros Todd Faircloth and Mark Davis finished second and third respectively with more than 80 pounds of fish each, while the winner brought more than 90 pounds to the scales.


“On highland reservoirs, the first pre-spawn movements usually begin when the water temperature reaches around 50 degrees,” continues Herren, “while on shallow lakes with vegetation the first pre-spawn activity doesn’t start until the water is 53 or 54 degrees. Water temperature is one of the first things I look at when I’m starting my search for pre-spawn fish, because the warmer the water, the closer bass will be to their actual spawning areas.”

Another thing the Yamaha Pro tries to identify is the primary type of cover available in the lake he’s fishing, because this is what bass will nearly always use when they do stop en route. Cover can be rocks, standing timber, boat docks, and of course, vegetation like hydrilla and milfoil. Combinations of these, especially on lakes with vegetation, will normally make areas even more productive.

“I suggest fishermen use crankbaits, spinnerbaits, or jigs, too, when they’re looking for pre-spawn fish,” adds Herren, “because these three lures allow you to fish all of these types of cover very efficiently. With a crankbait, I use a medium speed retrieve with a lot of stop-and-go action, while with a spinnerbait I usually prefer a slow-rolling presentation close to the bottom. Pre-spawn bass are usually active feeders, but I think that in the cooler water a slower retrieve usually works better. 

“When I’m fishing for pre-spawn fish, I nearly always begin in slightly deeper water and work my way toward the shallows,” continues the Yamaha Pro, “unless the water temperature is already up around 60 degrees. In that case, I’ll go straight to shallow water, but normally, I like to start fishing the outside points, or the mouths of the smaller creeks, looking for fish around the dominant cover and gradually moving shallow.

“The ideal location is a protected, hard bottom cove or a small drainage channel leading into a large, protected spawning flat, because these types of areas will continue to attract and hold a lot of bass throughout the entire spawning season. Often, you won’t see these features above the surface so you have to study your electronics, but once you catch your first quality bass, it’s important to stop and work the area carefully because there are usually other fish nearby using the same cover and structure.” Y