This is part 3 of a multi-part series on fishing Moses Lake (Washington) in May. Part 3 focuses on what is meant by spawning phases or waves and how those apply to Moses Lake.

Spawning Phases (Waves)

I’m sure you’ve seen, heard, or read about bass spawning in “phases” or “waves”, but what does that really mean and so what? How does that impact my day on the water?

No matter where you fish unless it is on a tiny lake or pond, bass will spawn in different groups at different times. Generally, the larger and more diverse (meaning varying structure and cover elements as well as varying water clarities and temperatures) your body of water, the more waves of the spawn that will happen.

One wave may happen early, say in early April, in the most protected areas. By “protected”, I mean protected from winds and incoming water currents. So often in the furthest backwater sections or those areas furthest from the channel.

Also, areas that experience the earliest vegetation growth tend to have earlier spawns, since vegetation growth/health is a good predictor or fry survival.

So while one area of the lake or river could be experiencing a spawn, maybe all other areas are still in a “pre-spawn” stage or phase.

Why this impacts anglers is that may guess or believe you are catching pre-spawn bass and then the next week, you return to the same area and having difficulties doing as well because the bulk of the bass in that area are now spawning. The spawn is happening in a wave in that area. Meanwhile, across the lake, the spawn is not happening and your pre-spawn methods would very likely pay dividends there.

Fish Your Fish.

“Fish Your Fish”, means to fish for the bass you feel confident in understanding and catching – and fishing for the bass you want to catch. During the spring and early summer months, it is often possible to target a phase of the spawn that you feel most confident in. Whether that’s the pre-spawn, spawn or post-spawn…you have options.

Contrary to conventional beliefs, fishing for bass that are actively spawning (paired up and in the heat of the moment) is one of the most difficult phases to catch them in. Both the male and female are programmed to NOT eat, and so it often takes coming across one that has a little different (fearless?) mindset to get it to bite right away.

Intentionally fishing for bedding bass requires a different set of tools, techniques, and mindset. Some anglers find it both rewarding and enjoy the challenge and up close and personal nature of it. Similar to why some people prefer to bow hunt over rifle hunt, while others enjoy both. Some bird hunters prefer upland hunting to waterfowl, while a few enjoy and do both. Different pursuits, that require different techniques and a different mentality. Doesn’t mean you can’t jump-shoot a duck while you are out pheasant hunting.

Both the pre-spawn and post-spawn are just easier and more straight-forward in terms of both equipment and technique. Fishing for spawning bass requires a special level of patience and confidence that not anglers possess. For other anglers, bed fishing just doesn’t seem like “real” fishing and they may choose to find either pre-spawn or post-spawn bass based on a personal ethic they want to follow.

Waves and Stages at Moses Lake

The following chart is really not all that scientific. It is mostly based on the experiences of a small group of anglers. You may or may not agree with it. But in my experiences, the chart below summarizes how both Largemouth and Smallmouth phase through the spawn in different locations (“horns” or arms of the lake).

Spawning waves in EARLY May
Spawning waves in LATE May
The further back into each arm (horn) of Moses Lake you venture, the further along the spawn in Early May – is a pretty good rule of thumb. The major exception would be parts of Parker Horn that are affected by the colder flow of Crab Creek.
As May rolls along, waves of the spawn began to roll towards the main lake of Moses.

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