You need to use more than the best tackle to consistently catch largemouth bass. Knowing the seasonal behavior of bass can make the difference between a fun weekend on the water or a disappointing return.
If you have a good spring, but then start to struggle when it heats up, or if you find that fall is causing you problems, your rod, reel, or line are not the problems.
It’s your largemouth knowledge!
Do you want to know how each season affects bass behavior, prey, and feeding habits? Which is the best time of year to fish for bass?
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Best time to catch bass in the spring
Spring is, in many ways, the most difficult season to grasp because it has three distinct periods that are driven by bass behavior and each driven by time and water temperature.
With water temperatures rising to 55 degrees and warmer winter weather, bass will wake up from their winter sleep to become more active.
Both genders, but especially females, need to seek out high-quality protein sources to increase egg development and to build fat for the coming spawn. Wildlife biologists know that winter is particularly cruel to baitfish and many of the smaller shads and minnows will not have survived.
Although larger prey items such as mature shad or bluegill will still be available, their numbers will not be as high as they were earlier in the year.
Largemouths rely instead on aquatic invertebrates such as crawfish for pre-spawn.
As the weather warms up, largemouth will begin to gather on the western and northern sides of lakes and rivers, which are the areas that receive the most sunlight. They will spawn near the shallows, so look for them along or near steep inclines.
They will often require you to search for some water to locate them.
This means that I use lures such as the Bomber Lures Model A, in colors and patterns that resemble crawfish.
I like to also run the Strike King Red Eye Shad “Delta Red.”
These designs offer excellent vibration and action. They also come in colors that closely resemble the prey item of your choice.
The largest bass will move to their spawning areas as soon as the water reaches 55 degrees. This presents both opportunities and challenges.
Problem is that active spawning females can stop eating and go without a meal for up to two weeks. Seasonal anorexia can be as predictable and problematic as it is challenging. These ladies will not eat.
This can be overcome by continuing to fish for largemouths that are still waiting to hatch. You can continue fishing the steep drop-offs and they will be actively feeding. Keep going with what you did pre-spawn until it stops working.
It will end. The spawn will attract the attention of mature bass as the water warms. It’s time for a change in tactics.
Females will become aggressive when nests are placed in shallows. They chase away any predators. All kinds of predators, from bluegills to shads to salamanders, are searching for easy meals. Your best strategy is finding nests and throwing lures that look like them.
Berkley’s Lizards are my favorite for getting a female angry. Texas rigged mine. I ran them along the bottom, jerking and letting them fall. You will usually get a strong reaction after a few passes!
Strike King Red Eye Shad is also my favorite in “Gizzard Shad”, and “Green Shad,” because they stir up trouble with big females.
Without the tried-and-true Rapala Shad Rap, I will not work a largemouth spawning site.
It is also complex to post-spawn.
The spawn has left the females exhausted and retreating into deeper waters, while the males assume guard duty. The gendered split can be confusing for bass anglers, but it is possible to change the way you view largemouth.
Pete Robbins says, “If we look at the ecosystem holistically… bass can also be as predictable during these supposed difficult times.” Focus on fish other than the bass you are after – whether they’re newly hatched bass fry, or other species vulnerable to hungry bass. Rick Clunn said that “If you want the owl to understand you, study the mouse.”
Consider the vulnerable fry of males. Consider shad for the females.
These guardian males will likely be swimming in shallow waters with their fry. Topwater lures are a great way to get them to respond.
My choices include Strike King Spot ‘n’ King and the ever-deadly Rebel Pop-R.
The water will have warmed up significantly by this point, and the baitfish will begin spawning. If you spend some time looking for their spawning sites, the largemouth will be hungry and ready to eat them.
Any reasonable-sized jig head will work with any soft bait that imitates shad, but I prefer Zoom Bait Swimming Super Flukes, Zoom Super Flukes, and Berkley PowerBait Power Grubs.
The Yo-Zuri 3DB squarebill is my secret weapon in post-spawn. This crankbait is deadly and has the look and action to tempt a hungry bass to hit. I work him relentlessly over shad bed until the sun starts rising.
Take a look at our Spring Bass Fishing Tips.
Summer is the best time to catch bass
The season that is most familiar to casual largemouth anglers is summer.
There are many feeding options now that the water has reached its highest temperature in a year. Bluegill and shad are abundant as well as large insects, crawfish, and frogs. There are many options for bass, but the most important things to consider are technique and whereabouts.
You know it’s time for summer fishing when the post-spawn bite is less intense and topwater lures don’t cause a strike from protective dads. Patrick Meitin offers another cue: “A lot of dinks in water normally holding decent fish is one signal that springtime techniques should be abandoned and you should adopt summer ploys.”
Bass will retreat to deeper waters if the water is too warm in the shallows. Drop-offs, channels, and deep weed beds are all good options. The key to finding bass is often found in schools of baitfish. A fish finder that works well at this time of the year will be able to help you do it.
Drop shots, crankbaits, and jerk baits are all options that offer a wide range of exciting hot-weather bass fishing opportunities.
Take a look at our Summer Bass Fishing Tips.
Fall is the best time to catch bass
Bass will go shallower again once the heat drops, especially if it is sudden. Experiential anglers will tell you that points, inclines, and flats are good options once the leaves turn.
It is partially due to declining water temperatures but also because of the movement by baitfish towards creeks and rivers’ mouths. The last days of the shad and minnows are over, and they’re now feeding hard, attracting the largemouth.
Ken Cook, a professional bass angler and former fisheries biologist, says that the “grocery store” is located near the shoreline in spring and fall. It can also be found around aquatic grasses, rocks, and docks. Crawfish, small fish, frogs, and other creatures are more abundant in shallow water than they are in deep. That’s why the bass will be found there.
This is my favorite season for spinnerbait. Designs such as the Strike King Finesse KVD and the Booyah Double Willow really shine.
I keep the Strike King Red Eye Shad and some Rebel Pop-Rs ready.
Are you looking for more options? You can check out our top picks of the best spinnerbaits to bass!
Chatterbaits are my favorite tool for harvesting fall weeds. The 3/8 Ounce Z-Man Original ChatterBait and a Lake Fork Trophy Lures Live Magic Shad Trailer are my two favorites.
The subdued colors are best for clear water, while the brighter ones work well for lakes that are murky, muddy, or stained. They are both magical when used on top of weed beds.
You can also check out our Fall Bass Fishing Tips.
Winter is the best time to catch bass
Winter is tough for largemouth fishing.
All but the largest baitfish will die as the mercury drops and the food supply decreases. To make matters worse, the bass goes into a state called torpor to conserve energy and stop feeding aggressively.
Largemouths will move deeply, hugging bottoms of channels and deep depressions and clustering in large schools.
It is important to use a slow-moving lure and work in large areas.
Spoons such as Strike King’s Sexy Spoon mimic a dying shad, and they work well in a variety of situations.
I also enjoy a 1/4 ounce jig head tipped with a big and slow soft bait. This recycles my post-spawn options with colors targeted for deeper water. I like a fluttering tail because I am often darkened, and I don’t want to be overlooked. My favorite is the Zoom Super Fluke.
Although it is not unusual to encounter largemouth in other seasons, with the right knowledge and experience, you can catch bass all year.
Understanding how water temperature affects movement and feeding behavior is key to adapting to these changes as they occur.
I hope you found this article helpful. If not, I would love to hear about it!
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