Enticing spawning bass to bite on Ohio’s inland waters is usually pretty easy. But locating them can be a real challenge. Most of our lakes and reservoirs are stained or downright muddy in the spring, making it virtually impossible to see bass on beds. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t catch them if you know when and where to look. Here are some tips for locating and catching bedding bass in Ohio.
1. Water Temperature - You’ve heard it a thousand times – 60 degrees is the magic number when it comes to triggering the spawn. Generally, I think that’s true here in Ohio. But I start looking for visual signs of spawning fish at 53 degrees. Oftentimes the biggest bass in the lake will spawn well-ahead of the general population. These are the fish you DON’T want to miss out on! In the past weeks, I’ve encountered fish on beds on two bodies of water at 54 degrees.
2. Location - To find beds, you must look in the right areas. Bass will nest in the most remote and protected areas of a lake. The backs of creeks and coves, and secluded backwaters are perfect areas to search. Banks that are sheltered from a cold north wind should be a focal point. Bedding bass prefer a hard bottom composition, and like to build beds next to stationary cover like logs, stumps, lily pad stems, and rocks.
3. Be Observant - When you’re scouring the shallows, make sure to look closely for visible signs of bedding bass. Even in stained water, beds can be seen with a keen eye by searching for lighter colored patches of the lake bottom. When the sun is out, these lighter areas can be highly visible, and should be fished, even if the bass itself can’t be seen. Another important visual clue in low-visibility scenarios is the bass’s tail sticking out of the water. A lot of times a bass will use its nose and mouth to work on its bed, and its tail will break the water’s surface. The tail usually only appears for a brief moment, so you really have to be observant.
4. Marking Beds - It’s hard enough to find beds, so once you do, make sure you don’t lose track of their exact location. There are several techniques that can be used to mark a bed. First is to line-up the location of the bed with notable shoreline features, such as a log, big rock, or a beer can that’s sitting on the bank. Another is to use your GPS unit to mark a way-point when you spot a fish spawning. Finally, dropping a white or chartreuse golf ball next to the bed will provide a visual landmark (just be sure to retrieve it when you are finished).
5. Boat Positioning – When approaching a bedding fish, turn your trolling motor down and turn your electronics off. Sometimes spawners can be really spooky, and even the slightest unnatural noise can scare them off. Keep your distance, and if you have a shallow-water anchoring system, use it. If possible, use the sun to your advantage by keeping it at your back. The sunlight can obscure the bass’s view of you. Just be sure not to let your shadow drape over the bed.
6. Presentation - Stealth is important. Make long casts to the bed, and try to avoid splashing your lure right on top of the bed (although sometimes that method can be effective, depending on the mood of the fish). Casting past the bed and moving the lure onto it is the best way to start. If you can’t entice them with a flipping bait, try rolling a spinnerbait or crankbait past the fish. Twitching a frog, popper, or prop bait directly above the fish can work in certain scenarios too.
The bass spawn is currently in full swing in Ohio. In fact, they have been bedding for several weeks now on many of our waters. I’ve found spawning fish on four public lakes, and have received reports from other anglers that have spotted some as well. More will be coming shallow for this annual ritual in the weeks to come, so try your hand at it the next time you’re out!
Tournament results from the weekend have been added to the Results page. There are a number of Open Tournaments on the schedule for this upcoming weekend. If you are looking for a slugfest, give the TBX Clear Fork Open a shot!