prominent bass expert once estimated that “80 percent of the challenge in bass
fishing is finding the fish.” Locating bass may be difficult because seasonal
movement patterns differ in almost every body of water. Temperature, oxygen level,
food supply and even the angle of the sun’s rays have an effect on bass location
in each season.
movements of bass center around spawning. Weeks before spawning begins, bass start
moving from deep water toward shallows that warm quickly. Males move in first.
During this pre-spawn period, look for bass near their spawning grounds, but in
slightly deeper water. On a warm day, bass will move into the spawning area, even
though spawning is weeks away. They retreat to deeper water when the weather cools.
They may repeat this pattern often during the pre-spawn period.
begin to feed when the water temperature edges above 50°F, but catching them is
difficult until the water reaches about 55°F. Then they begin a feeding binge
that is unequaled at any other time of the year. Anglers catch bass in the shallows
throughout the day. Baitfish are scarce, so bass spend most of their time cruising
shallow water in search of food. And because the sun is at a low angle, light
penetration does not force them into deeper water.
Spawning begins when the water reaches the mid-60s. After depositing their eggs,
the females abandon the nests. They feed very little for the next 2 to 3 weeks
while they recover from spawning. Males guarding their beds will strike lures
that come too close.
Water temperatures in the low 70s signal the beginning
of the post-spawn period and the resumption of good fishing. Females have recovered
and males have completed their nest-guarding duties. Both feed heavily in the
shallows but spend most of the day in deeper water.
of bass extend from February to April in southern waters. But in the North, they
are compressed into just a few weeks, usually from May to early June.
As summer progresses, strong
sunlight or warm surface temperatures may force bass out of shallow water. Bass
form loose schools along deep structure and cover during midday, but feed in the
shallows in morning and evening. Food is easy to find, so feeding periods tend
to be short. Some largemouths stay in the shallows all day if the cover is dense
enough or the water murky enough to block out sunlight.
above 80°F will usually push bass deeper, regardless of water clarity. But in
fertile lakes, low oxygen levels in the depths prevent bass from going deeper.
They must remain in warm, shallow water, where they become listless and difficult
FALL AND WINTER
When the water begins to cool in fall, bass in deep water return to the shallows.
Early fall is much like the pre-spawn period. In most waters, the summer’s predation
has reduced their food supply, so bass roam the shallows looking for a meal. And
with the sun once again lower in the sky, they can stay shallow all day. But many
anglers have quit fishing for the season by the time bass begin their fall feeding
As the surface water continues to cool, it eventually reaches
the same temperature as water in the depths. This starts the fall turnover. With
water at the same temperature and density throughout, wind circulates the lake
from top to bottom. Bass may be almost anywhere, so finding them is difficult.
In most waters, fall turnover lasts from 1 to 2 weeks.
In late fall,
the surface water becomes colder than water in the depths. Bass prefer the warmer
water, so they move to deep areas of the lake. They remain in these deepwater
haunts through winter, whether or not the lake freezes over.
below 50°F make bass sluggish and difficult to catch. But a few days of warm,
sunny weather may draw them into the shallows. Fishermen aware of this late season
movement can enjoy some of the year’s best fishing, especially for big bass. However,
if water temperatures fall below 40°F, bass are almost impossible to catch.
Ice fishermen sometimes enjoy a short flurry of action just after freeze-up,
but very few largemouths are taken during the rest of winter.