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

Guest Blogger Fishing Report: Welch Lake

This story was originally published by Michael Banks of “Friends of the Neches River“, an organization formed to preserve, protect and restore the wild and scenic Neches River to provide outdoor opportunity and enjoyment of this natural and cultural resource for present and future generations.

Welch Lake was not a slam dunk as I expected; several of you requested a report anyway so here goes.

I waited out the rain and put in at 10:00 am at the only public boat ramp which is on the west side of the lake off FM 1735. From the pictures attached you can see the fog coming off the water as Welch is a warm water lake. From the picture also you can see my rig for transport of my kayak. I have a “Y” rack with rollers which fits into my trailer hook up. In the front I have a saddle carrier with straps, so I can tie it down in the front and back. This rig carries my yak very well. I had rather not have to lift it that high but the rollers work well once it is up there. Also, if you look close in the pic you can see the wind is pretty strong coming straight into the launch. This presented a fishing problem for awhile. I would have to paddle into the wind to be able to drift for casting OR go across the lake to find a protected cove. After struggling with it for a while I chose the latter.

When you fish a new lake it is an experiment. You have to find where the fish are and what they are biting. One guy told me they were up close to the bank and hitting top water plugs. I tried and nothing happened so I don’t think he was an angel – probably the opposite – a jealous, fishing devil.

I finally hooked up about fifteen yards from the bank in 8-10 ft. of depth using a green, power worm with a light weight Texas rig (1/8 oz.).

I caught three good bass and lost three others with one of which could have been a hog. I never saw it but it sure felt big.

I took out at 4:00 pm and a guy was taking out his $30,000 bass boat and he said he had been fishing since 6 am and only caught 3, not as big as my catch.

Overall it was a great day; not the slam dunk I expected, but a winner – I paddled about 4 miles, caught some fish and made it home. I can’t ask for more.

I tried to take one pic of me, the yak, and the water – sort a dorky.

Till we put in again,
Michael Banks, DDS
Friends of the Neches River

Bedding Bass by Mark Wheeler (Yak Angler Pro Staffer)

This article was originally published at www.YakAngler.com by Mark Wheeler (Yak Angler Pro Staff member)

Bedding Bass Fishing bass during the spawn, in particular bedding bass – what a touchy subject! If you ask ten bass fishermen their thoughts,  the answers will vary from “never” to “situation” to “always”, and the discussions on the subject sound like presidential debates. Let us delve into the “situation”. Why? Because this is the one I adhere to, and I am going to go over the thought process, baits, and what to look for.

“When do you fish for bedding bass?” I have several times that I will fish for them, and other times that I won’t. As a tournament fisherman, the overriding thing is that if I need a fish and there is one on a bed that could put a check in my hand, I am going after that bass. If it’s not a tournament, there are a few factors that I take into account.The first factor: How active is the bass? If it is a male bass and he is darting around like a madman chasing off invaders, I am not going to disturb him. He has his hands full, and I will let him fight his battle. If I pull up to the bed and there’s a buck bass (the male) and a female, I am going to try to catch the female. If the buck is just fanning the bed and there are no invaders in sight, I’m going to try to catch him.

bassspawnAnother factor many may not think about is weather. If I have a funky weather pattern where the bass are on the beds, the temperatures are swinging, and there’s lots of rain, I will back off. The bass are fighting to keep the eggs free of silt and at a good temperature. When you get weather that will keep a fair share of eggs from hatching, I will avoid hitting the beds to give the rest a chance by letting the buck bass protect them from invaders.

The next factor is fishing pressure. If I am fishing a lake where on any given day the parking lot is filled with trailers, I will back off bedding bass. They are getting pounded constantly, so I will give them a reprieve.

bassbedIf the fish isn’t losing his mind due to invaders, the weather has been decent, and the fishing pressure is minimal, I will work the bed. So, what baits to use? You may have noticed I’ve mentioned invaders several times. What is an invader?  Brim, craws, minnows, turtles – basically anything! That’s the great thing about this time of year  – you can throw almost any style of bait and as long as you can put it on the “sweet spot” in the bed, you will get that bass.

One of my favorite baits is a white jig, “painted” with a red laser. Yup, a laser! We have all done it: sitting at the in-laws house, bored out of your mind, so what else is there to do than send “Mittens” into a frenzy with a laser on the floors and walls? Same thing happens with bass. You flip the jig into the bed, then take the laser and shine it on the jig. It’s like putting a spotlight on the bait,  and it will drive the bass nuts. Texas-rigged lizards, craws and creature baits are all great choices. Strike King’s “Rage” baits are my “go-to” when I want to work bait through a bed. Tubes are a great choice when there are a lot of brim in the water. I will trim the tentacles and peg a bullet weight, then work the bait into the bed and wait. When the bass comes over to chase off the tube, I will rip the bait up a foot then let it fall back to the bottom. This will irritate the bass and he will generally eat it quickly.

My new bed-busting bait is the Castalia Outdoors “Bombshell Turtle”. I fish this bait with a weighted swim bait hook. I flip the “Turtle” past the bed, then slowly drag it into the bed very slowly – kind of like a live turtle going “Mission Impossible”. This bait is cool, because the bass seems to sit there in disbelief for a few seconds until you move the Turtle – then he will annihilate it! It’s impressive how aggressively the fish will hit this bait.  This is my favorite for bedding bass, because with many other baits the bass will frustrate you by mouthing the bait a lot, picking it up and spitting it out the lure. With the Bombshell Turtle, if the fish goes after it you can count on putting him in the boat.

Bedding_Bass_Lures
HERE ARE A FEW BAITS THAT THE AUTHOR GOES TO WHEN GOING AFTER BEDDING BASS.

Remember – when fishing bedding bass, you want to be as “secret squirrel” and stealthy as possible. What I do is stand up in my kayak, and I use my stakeout pole to pole over to the bed. I stick the pole through one of my scuppers to hold me in place. Then I will flip or pitch, trying to keep the bait from making a huge splash. “Sneaky” is key to getting the bass to hit quickly.

Fishing for bedding bass can be a real challenge, and it is truly a fun and exciting way to bag some big fish. Remember – if you catch a bedding bass get him in quickly, take your picture and get him back in the water as fast as possible. This way the fish can get back on the bed to help protect the next generation of bass.

Tight lines, and wear your PFD.

About the Author: Mark Wheeler is a pro staff member with YakAngler.com, yakdaddy.net home of the slider, and irish water dogs. Mark specializes in freshwater bass fishing as well as hitting the salt occasionally in his hometown of Virginia Beach, VA. He is married to Becky wheeler and has two wonderful children Markie and Haley.

2012 Kayak Angler Tournament Series – Fayette Report

Steve Garcia Takes it Home Once Again!

The 2012 KATS Lake Fayette tournament took place this last Saturday. It was the second of 6 events in the series and was a great success! We applaud the 50 anglers that made the distant drive out to La Grange, Texas for an early start of 6:00 am.

Eagerly Awaiting the Results

The weather was almost perfect; slightly chilly, very little wind and cloud cover kept it warmer and shady. The fishing was a huge improvement over Lake Bastrop. In fact, most competitors were able to pull in several fish.

Steve Garcia once again secured the 1st place spot in the Pro Division with 102.75 inches putting him in the lead for the overall series at 200 points. Phillip Vela secured 1st place in the Amateur division with 48.5 inches. The complete results can be seen here on the KATS results page.

Nice catch!

On a side note: It is important that anyone wishing to compete for Kayak Angler of the Year or in the Classic Championship, remember that only those who have participated in two of the first four tournaments will be eligible to participate in the Wildcard event. If you have not yet fished one of the first two tournaments, you must fish the next two. However, each individual tournament is a great opportunity to compete and have loads of fun.

Another nice catch!

Winners of the Pro Division have been taking home up to $495 in prize money while the amateurs have been awarded prizes of comparable value. And while we are at it, check out our complete list of prizes including kayaks, a trailer, paddles, pfds and much more donated by our generous sponsors.

The next tournament is scheduled for March 24th, at Lake Travis. We hope you can join us! Sign up here.

Thanks,
Kristian @ACK Austin

Lake Athens Angel

This story was originally published by Michael Banks of “Friends of the Neches River“, an organization formed to preserve, protect and restore the wild and scenic Neches River to provide outdoor opportunity and enjoyment of this natural and cultural resource for present and future generations. Thanks for sharing this short story with us Michael…great cause, great story and great catch!

Have you ever seen an angel? No, I mean talked to an angel and then later realized it really was an angel. That happened to me today.

Michael's Share Lunker Big Bass at 13.6 LBs! Picture by Larry Hodge, TPWD

I stopped in the parking lot at the Lake Athens Marina and was checking the launching situation when this guy pulled up in an old pickup and stopped beside me, not in a parking space, just up besides me. He said, “You goin’ fishin’?” (I thought, duh, here’s your sign!) But I only said yes. He said, “Well we really caught ‘em yesterday on Cedar Creek, but I burned up my battery on my boat and can’t go today.” I said, “That’s too bad”, picking up he was looking for conversation and I wasn’t. He said, “I fish this lake a bunch and really like it.” Seeking information, I asked, “What were you using yesterday and where do you fish here?  I have only fished here a couple of times.” He said, “We were using them wacky worms without any sinkers. You see them boat houses over there?” I said “Yea.” He said, “Not them, those over there with the brown tops.” I said, “Yea.” He said, “You fish out in front of them if the grass ain’t too high. If they ain’t there, then you fish up at that point. And you see that bank over there? Go right up next to that. See that pipe over there? If they ain’t down there, they will be over there.”

I was getting anxious to launch so I thanked him and told him I hoped he got his boat fixed so he could go fishing. I then got in my truck and drove over to the other side of the boat launch. I do not know if he drove off, parked or puff – vanished. I usually can recognize folks after talking to them but later I realized I could not remember what he even looked like.

But I did use a power bait worm with no weight and I did hook up with fish at the places he mentioned. That’s when I realized the old man was an angel.

I caught ten bass between 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm; I had 5 strikes (bites) I did not catch; it did not rain while I was on the water; temperature was 75 degrees.

The obsession is not about the trophies. Obsession is with the experiences.

Michael Banks, DDS
Friends of the Neches River