Spring is a time of change in all aspects of the natural world. Ice melts, trees bud and flower, birds nest and bass anglers come out of their igloos. We’re ready to chase our little green friends for another season.
The bass are also in a time of flux and the prespawn period can be both the most exciting time of the year to fish and also the most frustrating.
If you’ve spent a lot of time on the water in the spring, you’ve undoubtedly had days that you’ll not soon forget. Big bass biting whatever you’re throwing make you look and feel like an Elite Series pro. You’ve also likely had days where you feel like all the bass in the lake left for spring break.
The “feast or famine” aspect of the prespawn is one of the things that makes Elite Series pro Chad Morgenthaler enjoy fishing it so much.
“The prespawn period is one of my favorite times to fish,” Morgenthaler said. “Obviously the bass are fat and feeding, but I also like it because it is a time of change and I enjoy figuring out the puzzle every time I get on the water.”
His ideal conditions for prespawn success are wind and sun. In fact, he prefers at least a little ripple on the water any time of the year, but said it was especially important before the bass begin spawning.
“A lot of folks don’t like fishing in the wind,” Morgenthaler said. “I get it, it’s frustrating at times to fish into the wind, but they’re missing the best bite of the prespawn. Combine a sunny day with a strong breeze and the bass will really start to feed. They feel secure with all the surface commotion, and the sun warms the water up which activates baitfish and starts the whole natural cycle.”
Because of this, when searching for prespawners he always starts on the wind-blown sides of coves or bays. If it’s not windy or sunny, you can usually still find areas that were getting wind in the previous days and concentrate on them.
Moving baits result in efficiency
Because prespawn bass are in a relatively constant state of flux, Morgenthaler said that covering water is a necessity—something best accomplished using moving baits.
“In my opinion, the best prespawn baits are anything that you can fish efficiently while covering a lot of water,” Morgenthaler said. “In clear water, my favorite would be a spinnerbait and in stained or dirty water, I’m usually throwing a vibrating jig.”
Because prespawners are often found in shallow water at times you’ll need to relocate fish on an almost daily basis. Spinnerbaits and vibrating jigs are two top performers at covering the shallows efficiently.
“I’ll usually start out fishing transition areas like secondary points, the first-third of a major creek, channel swings and the mouths of spawning areas,” Morgenthaler said. “You want to put the trolling motor down and just make lots of casts to any cover you come along, waiting to run into the fish. Once you get a couple bites, you may find the bass are all on secondary gravel points or around stumps on the creek channel, and then you can really focus in.”
When throwing a spinnerbait, he recommends a shad-colored 3/8 or 1/2-ounce Hawg Caller Proven Winner Double Willow Spinnerbait with a gold and silver blade.
If the water has less than a foot of visibility, Morgenthaler opts for a black and blue or green pumpkin 3/8 or 1/2-ounce Hawg Caller Shake ‘n’ Shad.
Be prepared for battle
When covering water with a spinnerbait or vibrating jig, you’re bound to encounter a variety of different types of cover or structure over the course of a day. Because of that, the rods you choose need to be able to handle an extremely wide variety of situations.
“If I’m cruising down the bank with a spinnerbait searching for prespawners, I’m going to be making long casts to the bank,” Morgethaler said. “Then, I may come up to a laydown and need to make short roll casts around it. After that, I may see a stump and need the accuracy to hit it the first cast. All those factors need to be accounted for. If you have too heavy of a rod, it won’t have the accuracy necessary up close, and if you use one that’s too short, you won’t be able to cast far enough.”
To provide the required versatility, he’s become a huge fan of the 6-foot, 9-inch medium-heavy Denali Kovert Casting Rod. He pairs the rod with a 6.2:1 Shimano Chronarch CI4+ Casting Reel spooled with 16-pound Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon.
“The Kovert spinnerbait rod is absolutely perfect for covering a lot of water in search of prespawners,” Morgenthaler said. “It is super-light, which means you can chuck and wind all day. It’s also accurate enough to put a spinnerbait in some pretty tight places but heavy enough to pull out a 6-pounder when it eats.”
When fishing a vibrating jig, Morgenthaler often looks for the same attributes—lightweight, a good combination of accuracy and power and just the “right” amount of tip. He has had the most success with the 7-foot, 2-inch medium-heavy Denali Kovert Casting Rod due to the intense vibration and large hook of the Shake ‘n’ Shad.
“Although you’re fishing them similarly, the Shake ‘n’ Shad pulls a lot harder than a spinnerbait, so I go up to the heavier rod to handle it while still maintaining the right versatility,” Morgenthaler said.
Morgenthaler stresses how important it is to stay versatile in the prespawn and believes an inability to adapt is one of the more common reasons people struggle.
“I see guys all the time that show up in the spring and just fish the same areas they fished the week before, or even the year before,” Morgenthaler said. “If you get out there and you’re not catching fish, move, experiment, or do something different. In the prespawn, it’s more likely they’ve moved rather than stopped biting.”
The same can be said for cover type as well. Morgenthaler has seen prespawn bass load up on particular pieces of cover like stumps, deeper laydowns or docks, so it’s imperative to fish multiple types of cover throughout the course of the day to pattern the bass.
If you make a concerted effort to cover water quickly and efficiently, there’s a great chance you’ll run across a big population of fat, female prespawners. Give Morgenthaler’s advice a try and hang on!