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When to Fish Deep During the Spawn

The spring season is known for spawning fish and shallow water fishing. While this is an exceptional time to target these shallow water bass, they’re not all on the bank. I spent the better part of my life strictly fishing shallow between the months of March and May, which are the prime bass spawning months in my part of the country. However, in recent years I’ve continued to fish offshore well into the spawn. For years I thought you could only catch fish shallow throughout this time of year, but with the recent advances in marine technology I’ve been experimenting with offshore fishing even throughout the spring. This has not only resulted in a plentiful amount of fish catches, but it’s also taught me a lot about fish movement and behavior. 


One of the biggest things I’ve learned practicing this style of fishing is that not all bass spawn on the bank. It’s been a common misconception that you have to fish shallow in order to catch spawning fish. After spending the last several years targeting offshore spawning fish, I quickly learned this isn’t the case. Bass will spawn at various depths based on water clarity and light penetration. Ive seen bass spawn as deep as 15 feet in some clear water fisheries. This is especially true with spotted bass and smallmouth. 

One of my local lakes here in Auburn, Alabama is Lake Martin. This is a clear water fishery full of shoals, sand and spotted bass. This is one of the first fisheries I noticed bass spawning in deep water. Just a few weeks ago I was fishing shoals in 10 to 12 feet when I noticed a few fish that seemed to be on bed. I was using Garmin Livescope in both forward and perspective view. I quickly noticed a pair of spotted bass that seemed awfully fond of a particular sandy patch. I could see them swimming in tight circles refusing to leave their preferred area. I made a quick pitch with my drop shot, ultimately catching both of them on my first two casts. These fish had bright red eyes and were peeing everywhere once I got them in the boat, a common sign the fish were spawning. 

I went on to run this pattern on several other shoals, quickly finding a plethora of deep water spawning fish. While it is fairly common to find spotted bass spawning in deeper water, you can also find largemouth as well. Over the last several months I’ve found numerous largemouth bass spawning in 5 to 6 feet of water using Garmin Livescope in perspective mode. These fish are often positioned around cover or in protected pockets. Garmin Perspective does a great job at really highlighting the bed, showing anglers spawning fish that would otherwise go unfished for. This was a real eye opener for me as I’d only targeted spawning fish on the bank up until this point. One of the biggest reasons I believe these fish prefer to spawn offshore is due to fluctuating water levels.


Fluctuating water levels can be detrimental to the bass spawn, and it often leads to fish pulling off the bank. Most lakes and river systems across the country are plagued with fluctuating water levels due to a variety of reasons. This greatly affects how fish position in the water column, making it extremely important to pay attention to when determining what depth to target. High water levels often cause fish to flood the bank, this being especially true during the spawn. This creates optimal sight fishing conditions and often leads to bass making beds on the banks. These conditions however are often temporary. High water levels often result in a major drop, leaving lots of bass beds high and dry. This causes fish to move off the bank to make their beds, creating the perfect opportunity to target them with your marine electronics.

Fishing the first pieces of offshore structure related to these spawning locations is often my favorite place to look in these conditions. The falling water level causes fish to move off the bank and retreat to more stable conditions. This is one of the best times to target offshore structure during the spawn. This structure isn’t always deep however, I often find success in 5-10 feet of water given these conditions. Locations such as brush, rock and other ambush points create the perfect locations for bass to hide during falling water levels.


Another huge reason bass move offshore this time of year is weather changes. One of the infamous shallow water killers is a cold front. Anglers all over the country have experienced the effects of this weather change, as it often leads to a slow day of fishing. This can be anything from a 5 degree drop in temperature all the way to a major freeze. Regardless of the severity it hardly ever helps the shallow bite. This is because the upper water column is most effected by changes in the weather system. This water is directly subjected to the outdoors temperature causing it to rapidly change alongside changing weather conditions. These changes in temperature cause bass to move deep in search of more stable conditions.

Deep water is far less affected by changes in the weather, making it a much more consistent approach to catching fish. Getting slightly off the bank and targeting submerged structure is one of the best was I’ve found to handle a major cold front. While this may sound easy on paper, its very common to get stuck in your ways regardless of a change in weather. Paying attention to these subtle changes and adjusting with the fish is the best way to constantly get bites throughout the spring season. Im guilty of this myself, however I started to find a lot more success once I started letting the fish tell me what to do, not the other way around.

Photo by: Shane Durrance



My final and favorite reason to fish offshore during the spawn is to avoid fishing pressure. During the fall, winter and summer it seems that anglers spread out all over the lake targeting various depths in the water column. In the spring however, anglers often flock to the bank targeting spawning fish using a variety of traditional tactics. While this is undoubtably a fantastic way to fish this time of year, I tend to prefer getting away from the crowds. Not only does fishing offshore during the spawn separate you from other fisherman, but it also allows you to get on unique bites other anglers aren’t capitalizing on. One of my favorite offshore spawning bites to target is offshore stump fishing.

Bass will often roam flats looking for stumps and other hard cover to lay their eggs. This type of cover isn’t visible with the naked eye, however it can still lead to some fantastic days of fishing. I’ll often start using side scan to graph these flats looking for hard bottom and cover for fish to spawn on. Once I’ve located a plethora of cover I’ll go through using forward facing sonar to catch individual fish using this cover to spawn. Ive caught all three species of bass practicing this technique, and its truly a great way to put together a quality limit of bass. Some of my favorite baits for this technique include a Strike King Filler Worm rigged on a drop shot, as well as a Neko rigged Yamamoto Senko.

Fishing deep during the spawn may seem counter intuitive at first, however you’ll quickly learn there’s still plenty of fish to be caught offshore this time of year. Paying attention to things such as water level, changing weather conditions and fishing pressure are all great indictors on when to move off the bank. If you’re looking to expand your spring fishing skillset, don’t be afraid to check deeper water when the right conditions present themselves.