Responsible Bed Fishing

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Responsible Bed Fishing

Big mama was sitting on a nest.

I had been fishing all day long and only got one bite (a small one at that). Then in a matter of ten minutes, I suddenly caught five bigs…Can you believe it?

Yes, we should!  May and June are two months in which we can find a large part of the largemouth population concentrated in the vicinity of their chosen spawning and nursery areas, and nothing (or just a few small bass) in the rest of the lake. The spawners may be moving up into these areas, cruising, making nests, actively laying, guarding eggs, rearing fry and/or moving out of their spawning grounds from May through June. These are really the best two months of the year for bass fishing in Spain (where I’m from) and across Europe. I am also told that May and June are likewise the best two months across the northern half of the USA and for the same reasons as explained in this story. So read on!

It seems like the bass initially meet up and aggregate offshore first (such as on primary points at mouths of creeks and bays) and move together to start making their nests on the same shorelines. However it happens, they end up spawning in the same places at the same times – they come ashore to spawn en masse in waves.

As anglers always eager to catch the very biggest bass, there are a few factors that will determine where we have to start looking for our goal – the big spawners.

Where to fish

As you may imagine, the most important thing at this time of the year is to know where are those choice areas, where the largemouth bass waves will build their nests. We have to find shallow banks with sunlight falling on them at a good angle. It’s also very important to search for the shorelines that receive more hours of sun, due to the need for sunlight to help ripen and hatch the bass eggs. Part of the bank selection process also depends on what’s happening with the baitfish bass feed upon at this time of year. Bass aren’t likely to spawn where they can’t find baitfish to feed themselves during the energy-sapping weeks while they are reproducing and rearing the next generation. And when the hatchlings absorb the nutritious egg yolk sacks they’re born with, the nursery grounds will need to be rich in life that can sustain the bass fry all spring and summer long. All these factors are instinctively selected by the spawning bass – but as anglers, we have to figure this all out too. So to find the best areas, we have to consider a mix between food (for parents and offspring) plus conditions conducive for nesting and for getting the fry off to a good start in life. But don’t forget that we are in May and June, the months of flowers and love, and it means that 80% of the shore will be covered by tons of panfish and baitfish (many of which are also interested to spawn soon) which simplifies our job.

Now, that we know the right shorelines to look for, let’s talk about the different ways to catch fish in these spawning situations.

Baits and Tactics

Responsible Bed Fishing

Jigs are simply deadly in spawning situations.

When a lunker attacks your lure, he or she can do it because it is ornery, due to its hormonal aggressiveness at this time of year. As you may have supposed, if bass are protecting their nest, eggs or fry, they will be ultra-aggressive. So you have to think a little bit different than in the rest of the season because now, we don’t want to simulate a baitfish or a crawdad, we just want to inflate the anger of the fish to get the bite. The reason a bass will strike now is just because it doesn’t want to tolerate your lure in the middle of its nest, its eggs or its fry.

Some bedding bass will bite every single lure ever made, but I can tell you from my experience that my own two favorite lures for success with the bigs on the nursery grounds in May and June are: 1) jigs and 2) swimbaits. I like to cast very far beyond the nest or fry ball, to avoid that the parent fish can hear the lure falling into the water. I will wait until the lure touches the bottom, and then start to reel and steer it in the direction directly to the nest, and I will then let it lay in the strike zone (on the nest) until the fish sees it – or can’t stand to see it any longer. You will see the reaction of the fish, it may become angry immediately or it may do a slow burn for a long while before striking. To watch this drama unfold, you can’t put a price on it!

If you don’t get the bite the first time you do this, just keep doing the same thing time after time, always trying to keep the lure in the strike zone as long as possible until you get the bite. You can try not moving the lure at all – or try imparting some faint vibrations with the rod tip while trying not to move the lure forward off the nest.

This is one of the most fascinating ways to fish for bass – and something you really cannot experience during the other ten months of the year.

Do’s and Don’ts

Kindly remember the following two important points to minimize any possible negative impact of bed fishing:

– Never keep fish that are caught on the spawning beds or nursery grounds

– Always release fish in the same place you caught them

Responsible Bed Fishing

A soft swimbait worked fast over the nest!

If we follow these practices, we will reduce any possible impact of fishing during May and June.

The one situation where I always refrain from casting over a bed is when I see that the male and female are doing their thing, rubbing over and against one another. That means that they are dispensing their eggs and fertilizing milt onto the nest. They can do this many times and with several mates in the area over the course of at least several days. If you catch a fish then, you will see how she/he expresses the eggs/milt over your hand, because of the stress of capture. And that is the shame, because it would otherwise mean more bass for you in the near future.

As the month of June fully unfolds, the bass will finish the job of protecting the offspring, and the parents will start to relocate in postspawn locations such as nearby deep drop-offs. They will show an indifferent attitude for just a few days as they simply rest and recuperate during the so-called “postspawn funk.” Fish will soon shake this funk off and start destroying your lures (if you can find the right pattern) because they have to begin refueling and filling their bellies due to depleting their fat reserves over the last month while taking care of the nest and fry. But to know more about postspawn fishing, you will have to wait for my next story!

Check Regulations

In some countries and specific lakes in Europe, bass fishing season is closed during the spawning months, and I hear that this is similar – bass fishing is prohibited during spawning months in some states in the upper half of the USA. Personally, I think that there are other ways to still fish responsibly during May and June while limiting the impact that anglers may possibly make on the nursery grounds…but nevertheless, where prohibitions are in effect, I dutifully follow them. Of course, I would like to add that if you have to wait until spawning season is over before bass fishing officially opens in your country, state or lake – that means you have already missed the best and easiest time of year to catch big bass. On the other hand, if spawning season is open to fishing, then certainly don’t miss it! Go bed fishing! Just act responsibly and have fun.

Roberto Martinez

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