Bass Baiting by Season: Understand the Cyclical Feeding Habits of Bass

Originally published on fix.com by Mike Cork

Bass Baiting by Season

Understand the Cyclical Feeding Habits of Bass

Bass are among the most sought-after freshwater game fish. Everyone from professional anglers to weekend fishermen spend countless hours trying to discover the magic lure to catch bass every time they fish. But the truth is, there is no single bait that mimics all the forage opportunities bass have throughout the year. Knowing the primary forage bass eat at any given time improves your chances of catching them.

Specific, reliable forage opportunities for bass come and go with the seasons. In spring, bass have the most complex feeding habits, so let’s start there.

SPRING INTO ACTION

There are three stages to a bass’s life cycle in the spring: pre-spawn, spawning, and post-spawn. Each stage has its own available forage. When the temperatures begin to rise, a bass’s metabolism speeds up and it needs more food to survive. During spring, all species of fish start moving toward shallow bays and north- or west-facing bank lines to capture the sun’s warmth. Larger baitfish that survived the winter limit the available food sources for bass. Shad, minnows, bream/bluegill, and other smaller species are all primary targets for bass. In spring, bass are not picky eaters and devour anything available. Presenting larger baits better mimics the available forage size.

Bass Lure

Pre-Spawn: As spring advances, bass start preparing for the spawning season. Bass feed heavily prior to the spawning ritual because they know that during the 10 to 14 days of spawning they will not feed at all. As the water warms above 50 degrees, bass change their primary forage to a high-protein diet. This helps egg development in females. Because of the protein content, crawfish are a highly sought-after food source during pre-spawning. Lures that have the size and color of lake crawfish species are the best options for mimicking what the bass search for during this time of year.

Spawn: During the spawning phase, a bass’s attitude changes, becoming defensive. Bluegill, bream, crawfish, salamanders, and even small turtles will attack a bass’s nest. Bass will aggressively assault these species, not for food but as a threat. First, a bass will try and run these pillagers away from the nests. If an invader returns, the bass will kill it. Anglers should choose baits that imitate these species that threaten bass eggs.

Post-Spawn: The last phase in the spring cycle is the post-spawn. In this cycle, the females leave the males to guard the fry. The majority of the female bass can be found in deeper water, resting from the spawning ritual. The males will stay near the nests, protecting the recently hatched fry. Bait options vary depending on whether you target male or female bass. To target male bass guarding fry along the shorelines, use top-water baits. The fry stay very shallow and near the surface, so the male bass protecting them swim just beneath and attack anything that poses a threat to the fry. Surface baits that make noise and scare the fry become an immediate enemy of the male bass.

Female bass migrate to slightly deeper water; although they are healing from the spawn, they are very hungry. Just about any bait that’s slow is a good choice. By now the water has warmed significantly and the shad in the lake will migrate to the shallows for their own spawning season. Their migration intersects with females moving toward deeper water, and the shad become a primary food source as the two fish cross paths.

After the bass spawning cycle is complete in spring, the tables turn and the bass becomes the predator again. As the water continues to warm, other species begin spawning cycles. Bass utilize these spawning species to their advantage for easy feeding opportunities.

As the water temperature gets to about 70 degrees, shad start to spawn; this typically occurs about two or three weeks after the bass spawn. When shad follow a bait to the boat, that’s a telltale sign of shad spawn. That signifies male shad looking for a female mate. At the water’s edge, you will also notice small groups of shad chasing each other around items such as rocks, dock pylons, vegetation, or any debris in the water. This is how they spawn.

I like to call the shad spawn Mother Nature’s way of fattening up the bass after they have spawned. Hungry bass gorge themselves on this abundant food source in the shallow waters. Once you notice the shad spawn, choose baits that mimic the same size, shape, and color of the shad in your local lakes. Silver or white baits with a green or blue hue are very effective.

Bream, bluegill, and other sunfish species start their spawning rituals after the shad spawn. You’ll see this by locating small, cleared-out circles cleared on the bottom of shallow pockets. A good bream/bluegill bedding ground will have 20-50 of these circles inside a 20-yard square. Large bass prowl the edges of these spawning grounds, waiting for weak or tired bream/bluegill to swim by. These species have a tremendous color variance across the country. It is important to investigate the local waters to best match the colors of the species. During this phase, bait choices should mimic the bream or small sunfish in your area.

SUMMER LOVIN’

As the season moves into mid-summer, forage opportunities for bass open up, consisting of everything from shad that have migrated back to deeper waters to bream/bluegill that live in shallow water most of the year and crawfish that are plentiful in all lake depths. As summer progresses, shallow waters become extremely warm and bass seek deeper water for cooler temperatures. Bass use creek channels, ledges, deep grass lines, or points to migrate in search of shad. Finding one of these structures and presenting baits that mimic shad will increase your chances of landing bass.

Bass Lure by Season

FALLING FOR IT

In autumn, the water cools down and everything in the lake seems to migrate to the backs of creek channels. As the fall rains wash nutrients from summer growth into the lake, these nutrients trigger plankton explosions. Shad, in search of this food source, migrate towards incoming water. Your lake’s larger feeder creeks fill up with shad and the bass are never far behind. Bass use the fall shad migration as a means to fatten up for the winter. This time of year bait choices are nearly unlimited. Bass aggressively feed and eat anything that resembles a shad. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and top-water baits all allow you to cover a lot of water and draw violent strikes from bass.

As the water temperatures continue to decrease in winter, forage starts to die off. These dying species become prime targets for bass. Most shad species cannot survive when the water temperatures fall below the mid-40s: they become easy meals for bass. This time of year, if you find shad, you find bass. Use baits that fall through and around shad. The slow-falling bait mimics a dying shad and bass aggressively strike.

Bass Lure by Season

BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE!

Once winter has a firm grip, feeding opportunities for bass become slim. Cold-blooded bass are the same temperature as their surroundings. The bass’s metabolism slows tremendously and they don’t need to feed as often, which means they’re difficult to catch. The available food sources are the largest of the forage species that survive the cold. Your best chance is to mimic any species in the lake with larger bait and a very slow retrieve.

seasonal-feeding-habits-of-bass-image004

As an angler, there are some general feeding habit rules that should be considered. First and foremost: bass are opportunistic feeders. When presented with an easy meal and the energy used to capture it is less than the energy gained from eating it, the bass sees this as a benefit and takes the opportunity to eat. Second: there are geographic feeding habits that can’t be ignored. An example is the West Coast. Bass have adapted to eating the trout that are stocked in lakes; this forage has to be considered when fishing lakes stocked with any kind of fingerlings. Lastly: crawfish are in every lake, river, and stream, making them available, year-round forage. When choosing baits that mimic crawfish, pay close attention to water temperature. The colder the water, the slower your presentation.

By knowing the feeding habits of bass, anglers can present a bait choice that the bass seek out. Choose baits that mimic the size and color of the forage bass are feeding on for the season. There are many keys to a successful day on the water and using the proper bait starts you in the right direction.
bass fishing

Grip and Grin: Secret Trophy

 Guest Blog by Ben Duchesney @ Kayak Angler Mag

A N0-Name Lake Turns Into The New Spot After A Giant Largemouth.

“With spring time bass fishing in full swing, I was a little discouraged this year,” said David Tassos, “because of the rising commitments at work and the worst – my favorite bass honey hole was now protected by 3 gated communities surrounding it on all sides. For the last 6 months I had been searching far and wide for what I hoped would be that next ‘secret spot.’ I had located a no-David Tassos Bass body 1name lake that I was certain didn’t see much pressure and I began doing scouting trips randomly throughout the winter and early spring.

The Turning Point

Several small bass were caught but nothing that made me certain that this lake held the lunkers that I was hunting. Last week after an attempted (and failed) shot at fishing our old lake, my friend Matt and I again hit ‘The Lake’ that was only giving up 1-2 pounders. After four hours of paddling around and only a couple small bites, we were headed back to the truck. Continue reading Grip and Grin: Secret Trophy

Robert Leon Reels in Lake Conroe

Conroe Sunrise

Re-posted from FishKATS.com

Robert Leon reeled them in on Saturday catching the days’ only limit totaling 85.25 inches and securing first place for over $500 and a custom engraved Yak Attack Blackpak! Sam Gutierrez, a rising star within the KATS crowd took second with 47.75 inches. He is currently also in the lead for Kayak Angler of the Year. In third, Ryan Herzog scored 42.5 inches and a winning big bass of 22.25 inches. Robert Leon holds the current lead for King of the Fish with 130 total inches over the first two events of the season.

Robert Leon wins 1st Place!
Robert Leon wins 1st Place!

In the Social division, Dawson Merrill (13 years old) is keeping his winning streak  with a first place finish for an 18.75 inch bass. Larry Fisseler who took first at Decker placed second on Saturdays tourney. In third was a newcomer to the series, Kirk Beverung. See the full results for Lake Conroe here.

The totally free raffle prizes were amazing thanks to our generous sponsors, and most folks went home with new addition to their kayak gear shop! Dan Arnold, a young participant of KATS took home the charity raffle Xsporter 500 Pro, compliments of Platinum sponsor Thule. As always, a special thanks to our 2014 Patron sponsors, Bending BranchesMalone Auto Racks, and Ocean Kayak for their continued support!

Our next event will be in the Austin area covering two lakes, Lake Austin and Ladybird Lake(Town Lake). We are the biggest freshwater tournament in Texas and would love for you to join us. No membership fees, tons of fun, and great fishing! Learn how-to fish a KATS event!

To stay informed on upcoming events and the 2014 KATS series, please visit www.fishkats.com and subscribe to our email list. You can also find us on Facebook!

Garcia Wins Big at Decker – KATS 2014 Update

Re-posted from FishKATS.com

Holstine with a nice bass. Photo Credit: Shoot to Capture by Autumn Villanueva
Holstine with a nice bass. Photo Credit: Shoot to Capture by Autumn Villanueva

The KATS 2014 season kicked off on Saturday with the largest field of competitors in the series to date. There were 83 registered anglers that competed for a large prize pot, big bass payout, and a custom engraved YakAttack BlackPak. Windy conditions followed a beautiful morning at launch and made for tougher fishing for most of the tournament.

Steve Garcia, 2012 Kayak Angler of the Year and King of the Fish, took first place in the Pro Division with an even 100 inches. In addition his big bass of 23.25 inches secured the $550 big bass pot and custom engraved BlackPak. Garcia was awarded with $1251.25 and trophy for his excellent performance!

In a very close second place, Marcus Villanueva took home $682.50 with 99.25 inches. In third place, Clinton Holstine, a newcomer to the series, secured $341.25 with 93.75 inches. Both also took home a KATS Decker lake trophy! Robert Dockery has returned to the kayak fishing scene placing 4th place with 92 inches and winning a $100 Malone certificate. And with 91 inches, Robert Supak took fifth and $50 Scotty certificate.

Front Row (left to right): Kristian Kolflat, Dawson Merrel, Robert Dockery, Steve Garcia, Clinton Holstine. Back Row: Nick Fisseler, Larry Fisseler, Robert Supak & Marcus Villanueva.
Front Row (left to right): Kristian Kolflat, Dawson Merrel, Robert Dockery, Steve Garcia, Clinton Holstine. Back Row: Nick Fisseler, Larry Fisseler, Robert Supak & Marcus Villanueva.

In the Social Division, Larry Fisseler won a $297 ACK gift card with 65.5 inches, with his nephew Nick Fisseler taking second with $162 ACK gift certificate with 33.5 inches. One of our youngest competitors, Dawson Merrill (13) took third and an $81 gift card with a big 21.25 inch bass! A big congratulations to all who placed and huge thank you to everyone for joining us on Saturday! See the full results here!

The next KATS event is coming up fast, the Lake Conroe tournament is scheduled for January 25th! Please show your support to the sponsors who make this series possible! We thank you for being a part of KATS and hope to see you at the next one! To stay informed on upcoming events and the KATS 2014 series, please visit www.fishkats.com and subscribe to our email list. You can also find us on Facebook!

Big thank you to Autumn Villanueva of Shoot to Capture for taking photos at the event.

Kayak Fishing San Marcos with Assistant Store Manager Ryan Schaper

Written by San Marcos Assistant Manager Ryan Schaper

All loaded up for a great day of kayak fishing!
All loaded up for a great day of kayak fishing!

Having the opportunity to work at an outdoor retailer like ACK gives us, the employees, many awesome opportunities to learn about and use products so that we can better understand how they work and relay that information to you, the customer. One of the biggest opportunities is what’s called a Go Play day, where we get to leave the store, office or warehouse for the day and pick up a paddle (or whatever other outdoor gear we most feel like ‘playing’ with).

For my first ever Go Play day, I decided to take a typical kayak fishing day trip down the beautiful, clear, spring-fed San Marcos River, approximately 5 ½ miles of paddling. My target species, bass. The neat thing about river bassin is you can catch 4 species of bass in one water body including: large mouth, small mouth, Guadalupe, and the occasional rock bass.

The boat that I own and use way too much is a Moken 10 standard. Not the fastest of boats but very stable, so stable in fact I stand close to 90% of the time I am fishing on it. The reason I like to stand is I can see much better, cast much farther, and, with the lures I am typically using, the hook set ratio goes way up while standing.  Other than my kayak, there are many things that I use every time I go kayak fishing but the three things I would like to showcase and are arguably the most important are my Boga grips, paddle and sunglasses.

The Boga Grips in action.
The Boga Grips in action.

Boga grips are an amazing pair of fish grips that simultaneously double as a very accurate scale. Once you get your fish on the Bogas, it will not be coming off until you hit the release. As you can see from the picture they are safer for both you and the fish. They allow you to safely handle the fish and you can easily pull it through the water, allowing the fish to regain oxygen and lost strength from your fight. Once the fish has recovered hit the release and it will swim on it way.

My paddle is also very important to me and is something I most definitely never leave home without. I own a fiberglass Shuna paddle from Werner Hooked which I choose because it has a wider blade and with the Moken being so wide it allows me to move more water, especially while standing because I am not able to get the blade as deep.  Compared to my old cheap paddle the Werner makes a world of a difference. I hear the argument often from guys stating that they would rather have a cheaper heavier paddle because they want to get more of a “workout.” That is not necessarily true; a higher end paddle makes you more efficient on the water and allows a higher cadence which provides a better workout. My Shuna has bailed me out more times than I can count. For example fishing a river you are always dealing with current and I tend to catch my bigger fish either in or very close to heavy current.  With my Werner paddle I can get in sometimes 2 to 3 more casts than I could previously with my low end paddle because I know with 2-3 swift strokes of the Shuna I can easily change the direction of my boat in preparation for going down or getting sucked into a heavy rapid.

One of my bass for the day!
One of my bass for the day!

The final pieces of equipment that I NEVER leave home without on any day of the week are my Costa Del Mar Sunglasses. I cannot stress enough the importance of good sunglasses.  I own the Black Fin frames with the 580 G green lenses.  I have the green lenses because I am predominantly fishing clear water but they are many lenses options for different water bodies.  These glasses reduce glare off the water dramatically and even allow you to see through the water! Depending on conditions I can sometimes see more than 8 feet under the water! This helps drastically because I can determine varying depths in the water and occasionally even see the fish and sight cast to them.  The biggest bass pictured here was one that I actually saw his tail sticking out from under a rock ledge 4 feet under the water, casted to him and the fight was on! The fish was over 19 inches and over 3 lbs on the Boga grips!

When the day was over I had caught and released over a dozen bass ranging from 10 to 19 inches in length and 3 different species. Overall was a great fishing day on the San Marcos River!

Kayak Bass Fishing Texas Open

There’s Never Been a Better Time for Freshwater Kayak Fishing in Texas

Bobby Clark snagging a nice bass from his kayak.
Bobby Clark snagging a nice bass from his kayak.

A few years ago you would be hard pressed to find a kayak fishing tournament in Texas for freshwater anglers. Certainly they existed, but mostly hidden among forums or in the minds of those in the know. Today, it’s a different story, with multiple tournament series holding monthly events and one-shot events popping up left and right. And ya, the best place to find Texas kayak fishing tournament information is still going to be local forums like Austin Kayak FishingTexas Kayak Fisherman or Texas Fishing Forum.

Kayak Bass Fishing Texas Open Joins The Scene

The most recent of these events to appear in the Texas scene is called the Kayak Bass Fishing Texas Open. What’s exciting about this event is that it aims to unite a widespread demographic of Texas anglers, separated mostly by region in the state.

“I’m hoping it will bring three big segments of Texas kayak anglers together for one big event,” says tournament director Bobby Clark, “You have your Austin and Dallas guys already competing regularly in tournament trails and events and then there’s those of us in Houston just now putting stuff together. The goal of this event is appeal to all of these people.”

And Clark has picked a perfect venue to do just that, Houston County Lake, which resides pretty close to the middle of all three major metropolitan areas.  Already, he says it’s off to a good start with nearly 50 pre-registered competitors when I checked in with him a week ago.

Supporting a Good Cause

Another great thing about the Kayak Bass Fishing Texas Open is that it will be supporting a good cause as 10% of all the entry fees and 100% of all raffle ticket proceeds will be going to the Texas chapter of Heroes on the Water. And with raffle prizes ranging from an ACK donated kayak, a custom engraved BlackPak from YakAttack, fishing gear and more, there’s plenty of reason to help raise money via the raffle!

Lots of sponsors, including ACK, have signed up!
Lots of sponsors, including ACK, have signed up!

Interested in competing? Here’s what you need to know:

Date: Oct. 5th
Time: 6:00 AM Launch Time and 2:00 PM Weigh In, with a mandatory 5:30 AM Captain’s Meeting
Location: Houston County Lake Crockett Family Resort
Registration: $75
Big Bass: $10

Competitors will be required to bring a Hawg Trough measuring device as well as a PFD, to be worn at all times. See complete details in the official tournament rules.

Hope to see you there!