Expert Tips for Big Water Bass

big bass
By mid-May most largemouths are off the bed and feeding heavily. (Photo by Ron Sinfelt)

Listen up as these pros reveal their secrets for finding and catching big water bass on some of the biggest lakes.

Missouri anglers are blessed to live in a state dotted with ponds, lakes and reservoirs in which to catch bass and other fish. But sometimes fishing on the waters of some of our bigger bodies of water can be intimidating. Finding the fish can sometimes be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack.

But now, thanks to two very successful and well-known anglers in fishing circles across the state, we have put together some of their favorite tips and tactics for catching largemouth bass at this time of year that can be applied in other states, too.


Win Stevens, of Springfield, has a long history of successful tournament angling. He serves as a Pro Staff member for companies like Strike King, Lew's, Minn Kota and many more. His home near Springfield allows him a lot of time to fish just for fun on Table Rock Lake.

Win Stevens says the timing of the best bass fishing centers around the weather. The weather can affect our water temperature and water clarity, which both greatly affect the way bass behave.

bass fishing

"Water temperature is of major importance to bass activity," Stevens said. "Fish are cold-blooded animals and water temps can affect the timing of the spawn."

Spring rains can also cause big lakes to get murky from all of the runoff from the surrounding hillsides. That is especially true in the upper reaches of the lakes where the creeks and tributaries empty into them.

"Fishing in cold, murky water can be very difficult," Stevens said. "Pay attention to the clarity of the water. You can often see the divide where the murky and clear water meet. This is a good place to catch spring bass."

According to Stevens, light penetration in the water plays a big role on what color of bait you should be casting. He suggests using natural-colored baits in clear water where light penetrates deeply. Colors like shad and crawdad shades work best in these water types. But in murky waters he suggests using brighter colors like chartreuse or fluorescent colors.

Stevens said the bass in Missouri reservoirs start spawning activity when the water temperatures hit the upper 60-degree range or in the lower 70s. Spawning can begin as early as sometime in March and last through early May.

"Look for the fish on the side of the lake that gets the most sun," Stevens said. "That's where the water warms up the quickest and the fish will start getting close to the banks on that side of the lake."

When temps are right for spawning, the fish can be anywhere from 1 to 12 feet deep. Stevens warns that cold snaps in the spring can quickly push the fish off the banks and out into deeper water. Those spawning bass usually make their nests on pea gravel or other rocky type bottoms.

Stevens said that after the sow bass have laid their eggs, they move off the nests to feed. The males get on the nests to protect the eggs in a couple of feet of water out to maybe 10 feet deep. At that time, if you fish close to the bank you are going to catch a lot of the aggressive males that are protecting the nests, but those will be the smaller fish.

"If you move out away from into waters 12 to 15 feet deep, you will catch the bigger female bass," Stevens said. "But they won't be as aggressive as the males, so you might have to put your bait right in their face."

More spring bass tips

Stevens used himself as an analogy to the bass. "If you finally get home from a hard day of work and you sit down in your easy chair and you see that your wife has just baked a nice cake, you are going to see it and think that it looks good, but you're tired and don't want to get up and go get a piece," said Stevens. "However, if your wife cuts you a slice of that cake and sits it right down in front of you, then you're going to grab it and eat it. The same holds true for bass."

In late May and early June, Stevens is looking for bass that have dispersed from the spawning cycle. They will be spread out over a larger area and harder to find and catch.

"Once the fry are gone from around the nest, the parent bass scatter and that begins a whole different fishing pattern," Stevens said. "Fish can be a little more difficult to catch because they are dispersed."

Stevens said he loves fishing the creek and river channels that lead away from the flats and shallows out to the main lake. He said the fish take these travel corridors back out the same way they came in.

"I like hitting the channel swings where it hits a point and goes back out to deeper water," Stevens said. "I like using faster baits that can cover more water, like crankbaits with a tight wiggle or spinnerbaits that I can move fast."

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