big hill 36

As the boat glides silently into the cove, bass can be seen hovering over the bare spots on the bottom. With the water temperatures in the low 60’s, the fish have begun to spawn and are at their most vulnerable.  Anglers look forward to this time of the year for some fast bass catching action.  But, should they?

Perhaps no other aspect of bass fishing is more controversial than that of fishing for spawning bass. Does it hurt the species?  Is it fair?  Can it hurt individual fish?

The answer to all three of these questions could be yes. But, it does not have to if the angler acts in a responsible manner.  Spawning bass are a resource that can be used but should not be abused during the spawn.

The majority of anglers support fishing during the spawn. They give two reasons for their opinions: They favor a mandatory catch and release season during the spawn; and that spawning bass would be caught, often accidentally by anglers targeting other species such as crappie.

Each spring the mating ritual of the largemouth bass begins as soon as water temperatures begin to rise. Male bass move into shallow protected areas to clear out a nest about 2 to 3 feet in diameter.  Here he waits for a receptive female to come along.


When the females begin to move into the area, the males herd them into the nesting area by nudging them along. The female will lay the eggs and the male then fertilizes them.  She returns to deeper water and the male stays to guard the nest until the young are born.  He will stay there for a few days after they hatch and then he too moves off to deeper water.  This is the spawn.

What does all this mean to the angler? It is possible to catch these bass as they are not difficult to aggravate into taking a lure presented in the general area of the nest.  The males, which are smaller than the females, will very aggressively defend the nest site from anything they perceive as an invader.  The angler with a pair of polarized sunglasses can usually pick out the shape of fish on the bed.  With a little practice he can learn to tell the males from the females.

In addition to their size being a key to the sex of the fish, their behavior will tell one which sex is involved. The larger female will almost always be accompanied by the smaller male, while the male will guard the nest alone if necessary.

If the males swim away from the nest when the lure is cast into the area, he has not established his territory. He will be hard to catch.  If he has established his territory, he will attach the lure in defense of the bed.  He may only attack the lure if it lands in a certain part of the bed.  The key for the angler is to find that part.

These male fish can be caught off the bed, released quickly and unhurt, they will return to the bed. They will continue to be aggressive and will hit other baits presented to them.

The females on the bed can also be caught. They must be released immediately.  If unhurt and not worn out from a long battle, the female will return to the bed and continue her egg laying in 3 or 4 minutes.

The important key is in setting the hook immediately. It should be set as soon as a bite is felt.  This prevents the fish from taking the hook deeper than just the lip.  Lip hooking prevents injury.  Once hooked, the fish must be landed and released as quickly as possible so as to not exhaust it.  Stress is the enemy of spawning fish.

Fishing for spawning bass can be an interesting and educational aspect of bassin’. It is important for the angler to understand the biology of the fish and the way it fits into nature.  If done properly, the angler poses no threat to the survival of the species or of any individual fish.  He can enjoy catching a lot of fish and still allow them to reproduce for the future of the sport.


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