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So with the spring season just around the corner I've began reading all sorts of articles/old posts on fishing the spawn, I've damn near reached the end of the internet.  I have a few questions regarding some "key" words that get thrown around a lot when discussing the spawn.  The first is staging areas.  My understanding of a staging area is a steep drop off into deeper water that is near a spawning flat.  Other staging areas could be deeper points/structure near spawning flats.  I am correct in what I'm looking for?  What other areas/structure do you guys look for in staging areas?  Do you look for different keys elements when fishing for green as opposed to brown?  I'm trying to up my bass fishing IQ so I dont go out and do the same stuff as I usually do in the spring/summer/fall which ends up with similiar results year to year, which aren't very impressive. I guess I just need a more in depth explaination of what the pre-spawn and staging areas is all about. Pre-spawn and spawn fishing is something that I've never been real successful at, which sucks because that's the time to catch toads, and a true toad is something that's always been a ghost to me.

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Zach, 

You ask  a complicated question to answer. Keep in mind that the large majority of what you will read was written by writers fishing the South. Things are different here. Clear cold water is our norm.

It's a lot easier to answer if you pick a body of water. Compare Silver Lake Cowlitz county and The River. They are nothing alike and have areas that are alike.   So a lake like silver is 1-7 feet nearly everywhere, and the bass don't roam far year round. Depth change may be  a 1 foot depression, but more important is things like all the cover and structure. Silver has tons of stumps and logs. Those large object hold heat which gives the fish another reason to relate to them.  A few nice days or some sun and you will see fish up very shallow in the shallow water that warms first. Looks for those area of a lake that warm first. The sun is in the south this time a year, choose a shore line that offers all of the above and the sun and your close. 

On the River work the sloughs and back water for the green fish, and points near spawning flats in the main river for the brown fish. Keeping what I wrote above in mind. If you ask 10 anglers you'll get 10 different answers but I like to start shallow and work deep, start slower and work faster thats just me. But use your electronics to locate fish on these points if you can and focus there first. Use slow moving baits that can get to the depth your fish are at.   Hope this helps.

Steve

Steve,

 

         You make some good points. It isn't as scientific as a lot of articles make it sound and some of our waters are different. I was way too over analytical when I first started fishing and got very frustrated when things didn't work out as they "technically" should have. The fish aren't reading these articles and following the directions and the directions need to be used more as a guide or starting point.

 

         My best example of this would be something that happened to me last year at the beginning of the season. I went to a lake with a buddy and had the worlds best game plan based on an entire winter's worth of thought about this particular subject. I had been on this lake during the peak of the spawn the year before and I knew where 3 massive spawning areas were that I didn't know about prior. There were literally hundreds of SM beds on these 3 areas the year before. Most of the beds I found were in 4-5 feet of water so my plan was to start out at the second break and work my way in (if need be) until I found the magic staging area.

 

      We started in about 16-18 feet and were no more than 50-75 yards from the spawning area. We made a couple passes through and didn't get bit. We moved in a little tighter (10-12) after that and still no bites. I didn't get my first bite until the wind blew us up tighter than I wanted and it wasn't even a bite. I asked my buddy to real in so we could move and we both had fish follow our jigs up to the boat.

 

       It was all over after that. We ultimately ended up switching to cranks and casting right up onto the spawning areas. We caught fish after fish on almost every cast for over an hour and they were all big ones. We didn't catch a fish under 3 pounds the whole day. We went to the other two areas I wanted to fish and with largely the same results.

 

       It was easily 6-8 weeks before any kind of spawning activity would take place and I would have bet the farm we would have caught them in that 12-18 foot range. As it turned out they all came out of 3-5 feet. I think the key that day was the fish had moved up shallow because it was sunny and warmer than usual. I think they were up trying to get warm and didn't want a jig crawled on the bottom but they were straight chowing the crank.

      

       In my mind it didn't make "technical" sense but I noticed there was no closed gate at the spawning area with a sign saying, "closed until the May". The fish were there in earnest. That day changed my entire spring and I caught more big fish (on purpose) than I had ever before in any of my past pre-spawn seasons.

 

Good stuff Potter.  I think the moral of the story is: know where spawning areas are and just fish the general area until you get bit, cause you know they got to be near by.  I think that your point about thinking and analyzing things too much is something that I will have in the back of my head for this whole season.

That was striaght Parnicky in length but you got the moral of the story. I wish I could take off 30 days during the spawn and go to every lake just to identify those spawning areas. I feel like you could develop a game plan for almost the first half of the season with just that.

 One other thing to keep in the front of your mind; they are called TOURNAMENTS not derbies. LOL

Thanks for helping me save my breath!  I could have rambled for days without getting anywhere on this one!  The moral of the story to me is just to find all of the flats and bays on a particular body of water and go from there.  They will be somewhere nearby doing something.  I seem to do better when I start from there and try to figure them out as opposed to expecting the fish to be doing something in particular.   

Josh Potter said:

That was striaght Parnicky in length but you got the moral of the story. I wish I could take off 30 days during the spawn and go to every lake just to identify those spawning areas. I feel like you could develop a game plan for almost the first half of the season with just that.

 One other thing to keep in the front of your mind; they are called TOURNAMENTS not derbies. LOL

A few thoughts...

  • Not all bass spawn at the same time or even spawn every year.  The spawn will often happen in waves, lasting over a period of several months. 
  • Water temp is not the most important thing - in fact it's totally overrated in my opinion.  It will affect fish activity levels, but not necessary location.  The amount of sunlight (calendar period) full moon phase and water clarity are more important.
  • Staging bass don't need to be deep...but will often be near deep water.  Deep being relative. 
  • Water clarity will dictate spawning depths.  Most of the water we fish during the spring time is at its murkiest
  • Smallmouth will often spawn in what you would consider to be "largemouth" water. 
  • During the spring and early summer bass will be in all stages of the spawn (pre, spawning, and post)  Their moods will be affected most by what stage they are in.  i.e. pre-spawn bass will react to baits and retrieves differently that spawning fish - same with post-spawn fish vs. spawning fish, etc. 
  • Location is more a by-product of what is available structure, cover and prey wise.  Current will also influence location a great deal.  All of this will make each body of water slightly different in terms of where staging vs. spawning happens.  Movements between wintering and staging locations can be measured in yards or miles - depending on what's available.  But they will travel as far as necessary.  
  • Females ("toads") as you referred to them, are easiest to catch pre-spawn.  The whole spawning cycle brings the "toads" into shallower water.  What size fish you are catching will often be a good indicator as to what phase those fish are in. 
  • If you have or get the chance to break down what happened in this year's Classic, then you got a clinic on this very topic. 
  • Finally, I disagree that bass in one part of the country are radically different from bass in another part.  You might be faced with slightly different terrain and water conditions and prey, but I'm more of a believer in "a bass is a bass".  We have many different variables here in the NW.  I haven't been anywhere yet, where I didn't think something I have done in Wash, Idaho, Oregon or California didn't apply.
Good stuff Don.  The Classic is what got me thinking about this whole thing.  I was hearing the terms "staging" and "spawning" used to describe the same area that the top guys were fishing.  I was somewhat confused on how an area could be both staging and spawning because of what I "thought" I knew.  They were describing the bass not the area

I agree with each statement Don has made, and if you come to the 3 Rivers Marine event on Saturday and ask I will be happy to expand the information and give you more useful information.  The spawning season (including just before and after) is one of the most predictable seasons.  The key is to determine what stage the majority of spawning bass are in, and then adjust your fishing pattern accordingly.  Once you figure it out in one part of a large lake or river system, you can follow the wave of spawning in colder parts of the lake or river, and even within the state or region of the country.

 

Of course you can scrap such a plan altogether, especially with smallmouth, and still catch bass.  To expand on what Don mentioned, up to one third of a smallmouth bass population may not spawn at all in a given year. 

 

As far as bass terminology such as "staging area", first understand there is no single dictionary anglers regard as the ultimate authority.  Throw in that different regions seem to develop their own lingo and it can really get confusing.  But in my experience, and as a writer myself, when I say "staging area" I do so to refer to a specific spot where I expect bass to hold and feed (while their eggs/milt are maturing), just before moving up to beds.  The keys for a great staging area are those spots close to the spawning flat, and where prey are readily available and easy to catch.

 

ciao,
Marc

Good stuff! Thanks for all the info guys!

  "The keys for a great staging area are those spots close to the spawning flat, and where prey are readily available and easy to catch."

 

This is what Marc said and I think is the most important part in the prespawn smallmouth. These staging areas could and can be the same exact flat they will be spawning on what could be closer to the spawning area than the spawning flat.  If there are rock rubble piles around the area would be another good spot or a current area not necesarily from a river or stream, push food and makes it bunch up. 

 

 

very good understanding what marc has said Ron  ! 

no real reason to over think this stuff ! however, it is rocket science and that is why i am not good at it. You and Marc are the smartest anglers i know.

Ronald Hobbs, Jr. said:

  "The keys for a great staging area are those spots close to the spawning flat, and where prey are readily available and easy to catch."

 

This is what Marc said and I think is the most important part in the prespawn smallmouth. These staging areas could and can be the same exact flat they will be spawning on what could be closer to the spawning area than the spawning flat.  If there are rock rubble piles around the area would be another good spot or a current area not necesarily from a river or stream, push food and makes it bunch up. 

 

 


From all the hours I spend reading informative tips on this site every now and again a sentence or two will really flick a light on in my brain and make sense to me. Sometimes it's a very simple concept that's just written in the right way.  It feels like I truly learned something and I'll write that sentence down.  Marc, that was one of them.


Marc Marcantonio said:

  The keys for a great staging area are those spots close to the spawning flat, and where prey are readily available and easy to catch.

 

ciao,
Marc

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