Fishing Alabama’s Lakes for Big, Early Spring Pre Spawn Bass!
By Reed Montgomery / Reeds Guide Service
Birmingham, Alabama (205) 663-1504
It’s a known fact Alabama’s bass feed and fatten up during the late winter / early spring period. Officially, that’s February here in Alabama. March is the pre spawn month for most of Alabama’s bass. However, this year the month of February at times with sudden warming trends in the 70’s, felt more like the month of March!
Then again at times, at least for the bass angler, the month of March can still feel like late winter. Sudden cold fronts will still display some very frigid days and cold nights, and lingering bass in the shallows are then few, as plunging water temperatures induce them to almost become dormant. But still, these bass have got to eat!
Actually with the right conditions, March is still the beginning of the spring season all throughout Alabama. A time for the smaller, pre spawn male bass and some of the lake’s bigger female bass to begin their annual trek towards the lake’s shallows to produce another year’s offspring. It actually comes in five stages.
First, these bass will continue feeding and putting on the needed fat reserves to make it through the actual spawning process. Second they will gather in pairs and head for the likely holding spots, near the lake’s shallow spawning grounds. Third, its time to prepare the beds and then the female bass will lay as many as 10,000 eggs.
Fourth in this spawning equation; Both male and female bass will then protect the freshly laid eggs by constantly chasing away any egg-eating, bed intruders. This will last until the eggs hatch, then the fifth phase of the spring spawn continues.
With success, the rest of newborn baby bass will then hatch out. Then, whatever is left of the brood (at times only less than half of the original 10,000 eggs survive from the ravages of predators), the surviving newborn baby bass fry are protected by their parents for another 3-4 weeks.
Then they are all on their own in their new watery world…full of even more predators.
During this entire spring time spawning process both male and female bass will eat very little. From the time when they prepare their beds, to often weeks afterwards when they successfully produce another year’s offspring, they will spend every swimming moment protecting their young.
ITS ALL ACCORDING TO THE WEATHER
No matter what species of bass you’re targeting in Alabama’s impounded waterways — whether its largemouth bass, smallmouth bass or spotted bass — you should always be prepared for a day of fishing, featuring either good weather or bad weather during these late winter/early spring fishing trips.
These annual feeding sprees and the spring time pre spawn rituals will inevitably take place this early spring season, no matter what lake you plan to fish. But dealing with various types of incoming weather is never all that predictable.
Anglers that fish for Alabama’s various bass species during the pre spawn period will always have a really good chance at fooling some of the year’s biggest bass into biting. Dealing with the elements is always a challenge.
Each week there are changes that take place on all of Alabama’s lakes that will be a determining factor on where these bass will be located. The weather always plays a huge role, not only during winter and spring, but in the summer and fall seasons as well.
Rising or falling lake levels, incoming warming trends, constant cold fronts, ever- changing water conditions and the availability (or the absence) of food for these predator bass, are just a few of the factors that keep these late winter / early spring bass on the move.
Adjusting…just like the bass, will reap huge rewards for those anglers that study all of these elements and conditions for each pre planned fishing trip.
Like said, “Always take a good look at the weather” before any pre planned fishing trip! Even going back and looking at what took place — weather-wise — during the last few day’s weather conditions will aid you tremendously in predicting what to expect on your next pre planned fishing trip.
The weather plays a huge roll on where schools of bass will be located as well. It can even influence loners, often “Big Bass” those that prefer to travel alone, that can be found in some very shallow water at times…and usually when very unexpected.
Or these bigger-than-average bass may be harder for some anglers to locate. Like during early spring’s severe cold fronts. This is when these late winter bass are still rather dormant, holding along some of the deeper portions of the many, many, miles of deep water to be found on any Alabama lake.
Or they can be buried up in some thick, shallow water cover like aquatic weeds, wood cover or rocks, awaiting more ideal conditions.
So some searching is required on the part of the late-winter, early-springtime angler. Just keep in mind, to always look at the current conditions and always look at last week’s weather before planning any fishing trip!
With weather, you get conditions. Heavy rains of several inches in a day’s time can suddenly swell some of Alabama’s lakes far over normal, full pool levels. Flooding spreads out these bass, that may have originally made their homes near the now, newly flooded shallows.
* Flooding also makes these bass spread out and very hard to find.
The lake’s in-undated shoreline, when flooded several feet over normal full pool levels, can show the normal full pool shoreline covered with as much as 1-10 feet of flooded water!
For bass anglers hoping to go fishing during these times of flooded lakes, its best to just stay home until conditions improve. For those more persistent anglers its time to search for clearer water, near the deep water late winter holding grounds.
Or you can move far down the lake to the lower end, where better conditions such as clearer water clarity may be taking place. Perhaps then fishing deep water drop-offs, ledges, drop offs, flooded humps, submerged islands and other irregular bottom features and possibly find more cooperative bass!
*Anglers should make it a note during any flooding situation; to stay away from any major feeder creek or any incoming river dumping muddy water in the lake. Cold, muddy, and flooded water conditions are the worst conditions an angler can face during the spring season.
Warming trends during winter in Alabama can start occurring in December. They can continue to just “pop up” all throughout the month of January. Even week-long warming trends can occur at any time during the month of February, traditionally the coldest month in Alabama.
Both male and female bass can be duped into thinking its time to prepare their beds for the spawn, when at times, it’s actually not. Water temperatures constantly above 60 degrees, coupled with a full moon can dupe these bass into pairing up and bedding.
But another sudden cold front can send them back to the pre spawn mode, until more ideal conditions take place.
* With warming trends you get warming waters. Each warming trend is different.
Warming trends vary. For instance; if it’s been real warm during the early spring, like over 70 degrees all day, the water temperatures in the shallows can rise as much as 5-10 degrees by late evening.
This sudden increase in the water temperature can induce these otherwise sluggish bass to feed heavily as their metabolism is quickly speeded up. As their day goes on, they eat more and more with each significant rise in the water temperature.
Even just a few degrees rise in the water temperature found throughout the shallows, (coupled with an available food source), will force these bass to use up a lot of otherwise conserved energy, when chasing down the day’s next meal.
* This sudden burst of energy requires these bass to eat more often. Much more often than when water temperatures are colder and they need less food, thus expanding less energy.
The more food intake these bass consume means more energy exerted chasing down the day’s next meal. Which might just be that fake offering you perfectly presented!
This sudden late winter / early spring feeding session could continue on into sundown on any of these warm, sunny days. But keep in mind this frantic feeding action in the shallows could suddenly be halted with a quick drop in the mercury, as another cold winter night approaches.
Cold nights suddenly moving in after a very warm day in the spring can lower the water temperatures in the shallows as much as 10 degrees overnight! Making morning fishing the next day often slower.
On the other hand; A couple of warm days, or three-five warm days in a row — coupled with several unseasonably warm nights — can make all the difference in the world!
This type of warming trend creates constantly warming water, not only in the shallows of the lake, but after as much as a week or more of warm days and nights, the water temperature will begin to warm in the lake’s deeper sections as well. This can be found to be taking place lake wide!
Fishing for pre spawn bass during the early spring season can be either feast or famine. There will be days when these bass seem to jump on every lure you present to them, loading the boat in the process. Then there will be those fishless days when anglers leave the lake just scratching their heads in disgust. That’s Fishing!
But it’s a sure fact you cannot expect to catch these big, pre spawn bass if you’re sitting at home by some warm fire relaxing in your easy chair!
Pick your days accordingly and you will greatly improve your chances during this spring spawning season in your quest for finding (and fooling) that,” Big Bass of a Lifetime” into biting! A day you will always remember.
Some of the year’s biggest bass can still be caught during this early spring, pre spawn season. But only by a little help from you by planning your fishing trip accordingly.
All it requires is just simply being there fishing the right spot, under the right conditions, fishing with the right lure, in the right manner and presentation, at the right time!
Thanks and Good Fishin’
Birmingham, Alabama Phone (205) 663-1504
“Over 40 Years Guiding for Bass and Stripers on all of Alabama’s Lakes”