While the daily feeding habits of largemouth bass are pretty unpredictable, the seasonal patterns bass follow are more of a certainty.
Weather fronts, rising and falling water levels and other factors can alter a bass’ daily feeding habits, but year in and year out the fish will follow the same seasonal patterns on your favorite fishery unless the bass’ habitat drastically changes. Some habitat changes that can alter seasonal patterns at a fishery include the decline of standing timber as a reservoir ages and the loss of aquatic vegetation, which in both cases cause bass to seek other types of shelter. However bass will still follow the same migration routes every year from deep water haunts in the winter and summer to shallow water spawning areas in the spring or feeding areas in the fall.
Here is a seasonal pattern guide to help you catch more bass throughout the year.
Spring Bass Fishing
As the water warms and daylight starts to lengthen in the early spring, prespawn bass start getting active and move up to the breaklines of their wintertime haunts such as points, channel drops and ledges in reservoirs or any type of drop-off in a natural lake. The fish will either sit or suspend near any type of available cover such as standing timber, rock or brush piles, boat docks and submerged weedbeds.
A jig and plastic craw or chunk works best for bottom-hugging bass while suspending stickbaits are the top choice for tempting bass suspended over the breaklines. Big bass hunkering down in brush piles can be coaxed into biting an Alabama rig adorned with swimbaits slowly ran over the top of the cover.
When the water temperature climbs into the mid 40-degree range, more prespawn bass move to the first breakline and a few heavyweight females begin staging on any cover along the migration routes leading to the spawning banks. The typical migration routes on a reservoir are creek channels running from main lake points to secondary points and then any depressions leading into the flats of coves or small pockets. On natural lakes prespawn bass migrate from deeper holes along any ditches leading to spawning flats or bays.
My favorite areas to look for these migrating prespawn bass in reservoirs are transition banks where the slab rocks change to chunk rocks or chunk rocks change to gravel. Suspending stickbaits and crawfish-colored crankbaits produce strikes from active bass roaming around rocky banks or isolated stumps and weed patches in depths of 2 to 10 feet. A jig pitched to shallow wood works best for any bass holding tight to the cover.
Prespawn bass start staging along any drops near the spawning banks when the water temperature climbs into the lower 50-degree range. In some cases, larger bass will spawn at 55 degrees. Action lures are more prevalent for these staging fish so try magnum spinnerbaits with big Colorado blades or red crankbaits in murky water or work suspending stickbaits at a faster pace in clear water. Ripping red lipless crankbaits through the weeds will trigger strikes from prespawn bass in the bays of natural lakes.
Prespawn and nesting bass in reservoirs can be found along the spawning banks of gravel flats or pockets when the water temperature ranges from 55 to 60 degrees. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits and Carolina-rigged plastic lizards will catch prespawn bass staging along the drops and isolated cover in front of the spawning banks, while floating worms, tube baits, Senkos and soft jerkbaits work best on the early spawning fish.
The Lagemouth Bass Spawn
The full-blown spawn is on when the water temperature ranges from 60 to 70 degrees. Smaller bass will usually build nests along the open banks, but larger fish usually spawn in deeper water or in hard-to-reach areas such as behind boat dock cables, in the thick of flooded bushes or the inside edges of weedbeds. A variety of soft plastics including tube baits, creature baits, Senkos, finesse worms, lizards, craws and double-tail grubs can all be dropped into nests to catch spawning bass. Floating worms, Flukes, topwater plugs and floating minnow imitators such as the Original Rapala stickbait worked over the top of spawning bass will trigger strikes from bass guarding their nests.
Post Spawn Bass Fishing
A few bass continue to spawn in water temperatures up to 75 degrees but many of the fish leave their nests as the water climbs to 80 degrees and start their migration route back to deeper open water. Early postspawn bass can still be found guarding fry around any available shallow cover along the spawning banks. Topwater walking baits, poppers, propeller baits and floating worms cast around docks, logs, overhanging trees and flooded bushes generates vicious strikes from postspawn bass guarding fry. A shaky head finesse worm or a Carolina-rigged plastic lizard dragged along the same transition banks prespawn bass follow will catch postspawn fish heading out to their summertime haunts.
Summer Fishing For Largemouth Bass
When the postspawn ends and the stable hot weather of summer arrives, largemouth bass settle into their deep water sanctuaries and remain there until the cooler nights of early fall set them in motion again.
Bluffs, main lake points, offshore humps and river or creek channel swings are some of the summertime hideouts for largemouth bass. Some bass will remain in shallow, dirty water throughout the summertime if the fish have plenty of cover and forage, but most bass on clear reservoirs move offshore to reside along rocky bottoms, deep brush piles or tall standing timber. Largemouth on natural lakes will hang in shallow lily pads and reeds, moderately deep weeds such as coontail or the deep edges of cabbage, milfoil, hydrilla and eel grass throughout the summer.
A magnum-sized Texas-rigged plastic worm is the ideal lure to tempt lethargic summertime bass lounging along points and ledges dotted with brush piles at depths of 20 feet or more depending on the water clarity. If the heat of the day is intolerable, try fishing the big worm at night along the same structure. When power generation creates current on reservoirs, deep-diving crankbaits and Carolina-rigged plastic worms are effective for bass feeding along offshore humps, ledges and main lake points.
Schools of largemouth also roam in open water chasing balls of baitfish throughout the summer. In natural lakes you can find these fish along emergent weeds in shallower areas and hydrilla beds in deeper water. When you see bass busting on the surface, throw topwater lures, lipless crankbaits and soft jerkbaits to the surface activity. Surfacing bass on reservoirs can be caught on the same lures worked over points and offshore humps.
Fishing For Largemouth Bass In The Fall
When cooler nights start dropping the water temperature in the early fall, baitfish start migrating from the main lake into the creeks and tributaries of reservoirs. Some bass start following the baitfish along the same migration route while bass that resided in the shallows during the summer wait for the baitfish to come to them. The migrating bass can be caught on topwater walkers, chuggers and ploppers along docks and standing timber on the steeper banks in the creeks and coves.
Cool weather continues to drop the water temperature into the 60-degree range when baitfish and bass move into the shallow flats and bays. The bass feeding frenzy of fall is in full swing then and action lures such as squarebill crankbaits, spinnerbaits, buzz baits and topwater ploppers are the top choice for aggressive bass. Key targets to try in the shallows are log laydowns, stumps, boat docks, and isolated weed patches. When a cold front hits and the bass get moody, you should switch to pitching jigs or Texas-rigged soft plastics to the same shallow targets.
By late fall the water temperatures drop into the low 50s and baitfish exit the shallow flats en route to deeper water on the main lake. Bass follow the shad along the same migration route they used in the early fall and stage for a while along creek channel banks and secondary points. Spinnerbaits, medium-diving crankbaits and slow-moving topwater lures are still effective for these migrating bass. Jigs become the most productive lure for bass affected by cold fronts during late fall.
Shallow vegetation begins to die in the fall on natural lakes so the most productive areas in thin water are patches of green plants. Spinnerbaits and buzz baits are the best bets for active bass roaming the shallows while Senkos, soft jerkbaits and creature baits flipped to the weed patches produce during cold fronts.
During late fall, bass in natural lakes move out to the green weed patches along drop-offs where active fish can be caught on crankbaits, spinnerbaits and hard plastic jerkbaits. After the passage of a cold front, you have to switch to smaller jigs, finesse worms and tube baits to tempt sluggish bass hiding in the weed patches.
Winter Largemouth Bass Fishing Tips
While Northern lakes freeze over in the winter, Southern natural lakes remain ice-free but the Florida-strain largemouth in these waters become lethargic and hard to catch.
Northern-strain largemouth in reservoirs remain semi-active throughout the winter and can be found in deep-water habitat such as river and creek channel bends, bluff ledges, points and any other steep slanting banks. The fish usually start settling into these spots when the water temperature drops into the lower 40-degree range.
Wintertime largemouth bass in clear highland reservoirs will suspend or hug the bottom in depths usually ranging from 20 to 50 feet. Lowland reservoir bass remain shallower (15 to 20 feet) in off-colored water throughout the winter. Productive baits for probing deep in clear or dirty water are jigging spoons, tail spinners and football jigs. Suspended bass in the clear water can be tricked into biting suspending jerkbaits, small swimbaits and Alabama rigs fitted with swimbaits.
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