Newborn bass less than two inches are considered “fry” and adult bass commonly stay in the area to protect the young of the year after they are born. Understanding and knowing how to target these fry guarders is something every bass angler should have in their arsenal.
Much like bedding bass, fry guarding occurs during a narrow window but it happens in every lake across the country. It didn’t take long when talking to Lester to realize he has an acute understanding of fry guarding bass and his experience has taught him the nuances of targeting fish in this phase of the spawn.
“A bass guarding fry acts very similar to a bass on a bed but their ‘circle’ gets a whole lot bigger,” Lester said. “Instead of a three- to five-foot spawning bed with one little sweet spot, a fry guarder might roam a 20-foot area. And just like spawning fish, their moods differ from fish to fish. Some are aggressive and you’ll see them come from a long way to eat your bait while others are super docile.”
To locate bass fry and the adults keeping tabs on them, Lester looks for traditional spawning areas; sheltered banks in small pockets or the very back of a creek where bass can find solace. But instead of looking for an actual spawning bed, Lester focuses on some type of cover near empty spawning beds.
“Newborn bass are on the menu for practically everything,” Lester explained. “Other species of fish, birds, frogs… everything in the water eats fry. I guess that’s why it seems they are always near some kind of cover whether it’s grass, bushes, laydowns or a seawall. They want to be next to something, not just roaming open water.”
It has been said only male bass stay in the shallows to protect fry, but Lester doesn’t agree. The even-keeled Tennessean believes there is no such thing as a sure thing in nature and each fish is an individual.
“I don’t trust the old logic that says it’s always the male who stays back and protects the fry,” Lester said. “I’ve caught bass up to 7 pounds guarding fry that looked a whole lot like spawned-out females to me. I think there is a lot we don’t understand about bass and nature is filled with exceptions.”