7 Proven Pre-Spawn Baits for Upland Reservoirs

Upland reservoirs provide some of the earliest pre-spawn opportunities for bass anglers. Here are seven of the most effective categories of baits to get your hands on and get organized for your early season trips coming up.  

Deep Diving Crankbait

Luhr Jensen Hot Lips is a great choice to cover those 10-15 ft staging depths.
Hint: Adding some suspend strips will help you “worm” that crankbait through staging areas

A deep diving crankbait is often the best option for the first thing to try.  The combination of working multiple depth ranges and varying speeds makes it the ultimate pre-spawn search bait.

Deep Diving Crankbaits

Suspend Strips


Hair Jig

Don’t get caught up or worry about too many color options here. Blacks and browns will work.

A hair jig has a niche place when searching for lethargic smallmouth that may be sitting off rock structure or rock/clay contours in clear water.

Hair jig options

Or check this out for how to tie your own



Depth, reaction, and susceptibility. All in one package.

A deeper, suspending jerkbait works wonders on pre-spawn bass.

Proven jerkbait:  Lucky Craft Staysee 

Other options

Lipless Crankbait

Need to cover water, search, find & come through submerged offshore vegetation and induce a reaction strike from pre-spawn bass?  Start here.

A lipless crankbait excels when you combine pre-spawn bass with environments that contain submerged vegetation.  The ability to rip or subtly pull away from submerged weed enhances the triggering characteristics that this bait naturally has.

Shop for lipless cranks


Punching Rig



A smaller punching rig, (think “jab” instead of “punch”) with a 3/8 or 1/2 oz. weight instead of a once or more is a great weapon when you around mixed cover (weeds and wood).  Use your choice of hook, punch skirt, and plastic.  Very often, your biggest fish of the day will come on this setup.  Essentially, you are just using a jig that comes through mixed cover better.

Punching supplies



Bladed Jig

Especially effective on submerged vegetation. Hint: Try heavier bladed jigs (5/8-3/4 oz) at times

A Chatterbait-style, bladed swim jig worked though submerged grass edges will attract big largemouth and smallmouth alike.

Bladed Jig selection

Swim Jig

For their overall versatility and effectiveness, a Swim Jig with a boot-styled swimbait trailer is our number 1 choice to have tied on for pre-spawn bass in upland reservoirs.

A Dirty Jigs, No-Jack Swim Jig, with your favorite boot-style swim bait as a trailer is about as good of a recommendation as we can make.  There is so much to choose from in this category between jigs and trailers plus skirts that you can come up with endless combinations that work.

One last hint.  Use a trailer keeper or lock to help minimize all the trailers you will go through.


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  1. Great tips! Do you like to snell your straight shank hook with fluorocarbon or do you prefer to tie a San Diego Jam Knot or equivalent to the eye?


  2. I have done a few experiments with the snell knot calling to question if in fact in theory if it hooks fish better. Let’s say the hook is engulfed and pointed hook point up when the hook “flips” the point of the hook should in theory be pointed away from the roof of the mouth… just sayin if it works don’t stop!

    1. They will work in both rivers and lakes. Reservoirs have both lake and river characteristics. A lake with no crawfish?

  3. For swim jigs I have found I no longer need super glue when using the Hack Attack swim jigs. They have a different keeper that holds trailers great, more of a safety pin rather than the barb on the collar. Bass Pro Enticer is nearly identical to the Hack Attack.