Spawning Smallmouth – Lessons Learned

Below is a video summary of a why smalllmouth fishing on beds is not as easy as many make it out to be.  There are multiple stages of the spawn and each of those stages offer its own set of challenges and most effective methods.  Multiply that by the fact that bass will be in various stages of the spawn all throughout a given body of water and you can quickly appreciate why it is a gross oversimplification to label fishing for spawning smallmouth as “easy”.

After spending hours reviewing the footage (yes, you can review fishing video like you can football video), I thought it might be worthwhile to summarize the main ways in which you DON’T catch them while they are bedding.  Much of the spring is dominated by fishing for bass (smallmouth and largemouth both) in various stages of spawning (especially if you include pre and post spawn).  Most of that fishing is done when conditions don’t allow for even seeing the bottom much less the beds or the fish.

Lessons Learned

  • Some beds are dark and obvious, some are very light colored and would be easy to miss
  • Big beds don’t necessarily equal big bass.  Some of the smaller, lighter colored beds will hold big fish as well
  • There’s a lot going on down there.  Guarding, coaxing, chasing, and then some actual spawning.  It’s their world and they are fully focused on getting a job done.  Your stumbling about and invasion of their bedroom is often treated just as you could assume it would.  It’s either fight or flight – but mostly flight.
  • It’s easy to spook them off the bed and therefore easy to assume they aren’t there.
  • It is common that more than one female and more than one male are associated or are trying to be associated with a bed.  Just because you catch one off a bed, doesn’t mean you should move on.  It might be worthwhile to continue to work that location a while longer.
  • There is actually a very small window of time where the females will willingly bite.
  • Males have a bigger window when they will bite, but each situation tends to be just a little different and most males just aren’t as prized – meaning they tend to run smaller, as in pounds smaller.
  • While shallow anchoring systems (Power Poles or Talons) help you make repeated casts to a spot especially in the wind, they will run some fish off the bed with a varying amount of time until they return.
  • The more sights and sounds (cues) that get associated with a threat (the angler), then the harder they will be to catch.  Be as stealthy as you can possibly be, including sonar pinging and any other sounds from the boat.  One in five bass won’t care and will make you believe it doesn’t matter.  The other four are giving you much different feedback – even if you don’t notice or can’t see it.

Here are the most common ways we spooked bass off of beds

  • Getting the boat too close.  Generally, the shallower the water the less tolerance they seem to have for the boat, but again, each bass tends to be it’s own individual in these situations.
  • Putting the Power Poles down.  Some ran off with even the sound of the pumps, others when the spikes hit the bottom.
  • Fishing line hitting the water over their bed.  Surprisingly, this tended to scare off as many as any other thing that we did.
  • Lure flying through the air directly over the bed.
  • Lure hitting the water to close to the bed/Lure coming into the bed.  Pretty humbling/frustrating when the very thing you are trying to do is a negative cue for certain bass.
  • Trolling motor on and off.  As we’ve tried to highlight before, that on and off of the trolling motor is mostly a negative thing in the bass world.  Steady “on” seems to be the least offensive.

The video is cool to look at because you can see what is happening.  How many times does the same thing happen and we have no idea that it just happened?  I should add that only some of what happened was apparent at the time.  In other words, we had good visibility and calm conditions this day and would have told you that we were pretty in tune with what was happening, even without the video.

On many occasions, successive casts to an obvious black spot yielded nothing.  Later on, when watching the video, it was obvious why.

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  1. Very interesting. The drone shots really allow you to observe the various behaviors and reactions to various stimuli, be it other smallmouth or the angler.