Matching the Hatch for Pre-Spawn Bass
Professional bass anglers refer to the term "match the hatch" often, but many other anglers go beyond the theory of matching the hatch in a few ways. In an interview I once read the legendary angler Bill Dance said this, "Think about this. Why would you cast a 1 1/2-inch shad-colored crankbait into a school of bass, or even to a single bass, chasing a pod of several hundred 1 1/2-inch shad? The odds against your offering being singled out are simply too great. I want to cast something that looks similar in shape but not size. It needs to be noticeably different, where it can be seen."
My friend and Tennessee Wild Side Guide Joey Monteleone shared many of these photos with me as some examples of what he uses to match the hatch. He also contributed to the theory that Mr. Dance had shared in the article; Joey had this to say, "This particular bait is a Strike King Shadalicious. It comes in six colors and three sizes (3.5, 4.5 and 5.5). When matching what any fish is feeding on. The color is critical but two other factors are more important. First I try to "UP-SIZE" my artificial bait. The reason for this is you want your lure to stand out. In a school of shad they can get all the three inch shad they want, they see the bigger version and expend the same amount of energy to get a bigger payoff. So use bigger versions of the forage that is present. Even more important is matching the correct retrieve speed. The bait should look, easy to catch, frightened or injured to appeal to the predatory instinct of any game fish."
Not all fish will fan beds, only bluegill, sunfish and bass will bed this way and they spawn in waves. Other fish such as perch and shad do not fan beds they spawn on ledges and then swim away without protecting their fry. If they do stay around for a few days it is for an easy meal. The importance for anglers to know this is because they can catch the bass that will be feeding on the spawning baitfish. Minnows spawn at similar condition the as the bass do. This is fortunate for minnows because bass do not seek them out during the spawn. However, bass do feed up on minnows during the pre-spawn as the minnows move into shallow water.
It is the crawfish that pre- spawn bass are looking for when they move shallow as the craws emerge out of their winter haunts as the water temps reach 50° in conjunction with the pre-spawn stage of the bass. As the male craws emerge and can be seen on top of rocks while trying to attract a female to mate. This natural occurrence makes crawfish vulnerable for the pre-spawn bass that are seeking the ultimate nutrition of the craws, The 50° range is the best time to throw crawfish imitation baits such as tubes crankbaits and jigs.
The baitfish in many lakes becomes the main forage of bass. The spawn of bluegill, pumpkinseed and a sunfish are similar. The non-bedding fish that come shallow to spawn on hard bottoms, rocks and ledges flee back to deep water afterwards. This usually occurred after the bass have bass have spawned.