By: Mark Wheeler
Fishing bass during the spawn, in particular, bedding bass – what a touchy subject! If you ask ten bass fishermen their thoughts, the answers will vary from “never” to “situation” to “always”, and the discussions on the subject sound like presidential debates. Let us delve into the “situation”. Why? Because this is the one I adhere to, and I am going to go over the thought process, baits, and what to look for.
“When do you fish for bedding bass?” I have several times that I will fish for them, and other times that I won’t. As a tournament fisherman, the overriding thing is that if I need a fish and there is one on a bed that could put a check in my hand, I am going after that bass. If it’s not a tournament, there are a few factors that I take into account.
The first factor: How active is the bass? If it is a male bass and he is darting around like a madman chasing off invaders, I am not going to disturb him. He has his hands full, and I will let him fight his battle. If I pull up to the bed and there’s a buck bass (the male) and a female, I am going to try to catch the female. If the buck is just fanning the bed and there are no invaders in sight, I’m going to try to catch him.
Another factor many may not think about is weather. If I have a funky weather pattern where the bass are on the beds, the temperatures are swinging, and there’s lots of rain, I will back off. The bass are fighting to keep the eggs free of silt and at a good temperature. When you get weather that will keep a fair share of eggs from hatching, I will avoid hitting the beds to give the rest a chance by letting the buck bass protect them from invaders.
The next factor is fishing pressure. If I am fishing a lake where on any given day the parking lot is filled with trailers, I will back off bedding bass. They are getting pounded constantly, so I will give them a reprieve.
If the fish isn’t losing his mind due to invaders, the weather has been decent, and the fishing pressure is minimal, I will work the bed. So, what baits to use? You may have noticed I’ve mentioned invaders several times. What is an invader? Bream, craws, minnows, turtles – basically anything! That’s the great thing about this time of year – you can throw almost any style of bait and as long as you can put it on the “sweet spot” in the bed, you will get that bass.
One of my favorite baits is a white jig, “painted” with a red laser. Yup, a laser! We have all done it: sitting at the in-laws house, bored out of your mind, so what else is there to do than send “Mittens” into a frenzy with a laser on the floors and walls? Same thing happens with bass. You flip the jig into the bed, then take the laser and shine it on the jig. It’s like putting a spotlight on the bait, and it will drive the bass nuts. Texas-rigged lizards, craws and creature baits are all great choices.
Tubes are a great choice when all else fails and with a few modifications you can drive that bass to hit. What you are going to need is; a Tube of your choice, a small foam float, 4/0-5/0 straight shank hook (the ones that are for flipping and pitching) and a 3/4-1 oz. tungsten weight. What you do is take the foam and trim it to fit inside the tube, you want that foam to fit really snugly if you want you can add a little glue to hold it in place. then rig it like you would be pitching. What you want to do is cast past the bed, then drag it into the edge of the bed, this is your starting point, there is always one spot that will make the bass go nuts, and it’s usually right where the eggs are as well, bass have bad aim sometimes so the eggs are not usually in the center. so starting on the edge is a great starting point. Now here is the trick, and why you added the foam insert, is that you are going to give the bait some line and the tube is going to rise up off the bottom leaving the weight on there, what i do is let it rise up a few inches then pull it back to the weight a good handful of times what this is doing is imitating a bait fish feeding on the eggs, and it will make that bass lose their minds. After a few times you will then drag the bait a few inches no more than 6 is about as far as I will go, then repeat! When the bass comes over to chase off the tube, I will rip the bait back to the bottom only if he is just staring at it. This will irritate the bass and he will generally eat it quickly. Also with all of these baits the hook is exposed in some way, you don’t want to have to worry about the hook point not coming thru plastic when you jam that hook into their jaw.
Another one of my bed-busting baits is the Castalia Outdoors “Bombshell Turtle”. I fish this bait with a weighted swim bait hook. I flip the “Turtle” past the bed, then slowly drag it into the bed very slowly – kind of like a live turtle going “Mission Impossible”. This bait is cool, because the bass seems to sit there in disbelief for a few seconds until you move the Turtle – then he will annihilate it! It’s impressive how aggressively the fish will hit this bait. This is another one of my favorites for bedding bass, because with many other types of bait the bass will frustrate you by mouthing the bait a lot, picking it up and spitting it out the lure. With the Bombshell Turtle, if the fish goes after it you can count on putting him in the boat.
Remember – when fishing bedding bass, you want to be as “secret squirrel” and stealthy as possible. What I do is stand up in my kayak, and I use my stakeout pole to pole over to the bed. I stick the pole through one of my scuppers to hold me in place. Then I will flip or pitch, trying to keep the bait from making a huge splash. “Sneaky” is key to getting the bass to hit quickly.
Fishing for bedding bass can be a real challenge, and it is truly a fun and exciting way to bag some big fish. Remember – if you catch a bedding bass get him in quickly, take your picture and get him back in the water as fast as possible. This way the fish can get back on the bed to help protect the next generation of bass.
Tight lines, and wear your P.F.D.