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How to Find and Catch Bass During the Pre-spawn

provided by John E. Phillips

Mossy Oak Fishing Pro Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, is the only professional fisherman to win four Bassmaster Classics and three Major League Fishing cups. Kevin’s one of the fastest fishermen finding and catching bass in every tournament he attends. He’s a very detailed angler and a keen observer of everything around him when he’s on the water. Sights and signals that most bass fishermen completely overlook are some of the keys to VanDam’s success. Mossy Oak wanted to know how VanDam finds and catches bass during a time of the year where many lakes will contain pre-spawn, spawning and post-spawn bass.

bass under water

If you’ve decided the water temperature in the lake is too cold for the bass to spawn, the bass are fairly deep, and you know this isn’t a grass lake, what lures will you use to catch those prespawn bass?

Kevin VanDam fishingVanDam: The crankbait is one of my favorite pre-spawn bass lures - whether I’m fishing a lipless crankbait, like the Red Eyed Shad, or a crankbait with a lip that runs through a certain water depth. The reason I like a crankbait in the pre-spawn is because I believe they are the most efficient crankbaits to catch bass at different water depths. If the fish are high in the water, you can fish a shallow-running crankbait. If the bass are on deep ledges, you can use a deep-running crankbait. Crankbaits have become so sophisticated that you can choose a crankbait to run that specific depth. Bass react to and bite crankbaits really well during the pre-spawn and tend to react better to the vibration of the crankbait than they do just to the sight of the crankbait. Different crankbaits give off various vibrations. For instance, the Red Eyed Shad has a really tight, side-to-side wobble. A deep-diving crankbait often has a slow, side-to-side wobble. 

Another lure that I use a lot during the pre-spawn is a bladed jig. I’ve discovered during the pre-spawn, that I tend to catch more bass with a lure that gives off a tight or a fast vibration better than a lure that gives off fewer or slower vibrations. A bladed jig gives off a tremendous amount of vibrations. A slow-rolled spinner bait also will give off a lot of vibrations that attract pre-spawn bass. The real secret to catching pre-spawn bass is choosing a lure that’s appropriate for the depth zone you want to fish, and a lure that mimics the forage on which the bass are feeding. 

During the pre-spawn, one of the bass’s favorite baits is crawfish, but in very cold weather, in many highland-reservoir type of lakes, you’ll also have shad die off during the pre-spawn, and the bass will feed heavily on them. If that’s what’s happening in the lake you’re fishing, then a jerkbait is the type of lure that best mimics what the pre-spawn bass are eating on in that lake when you’re fishing it. An umbrella rig, like the Alabama Rig, or a single swimbait also may be lures that produce bass in a highland reservoir where the shad have started dying off in the colder weather. In all three phases of the bass spawn, there are often multiple baits that will produce bass under certain weather and water conditions. The challenge for the bass angler is determining which lure the bass will react best to on the day he’s fishing.

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