Skip to main content

Find the Hot Pockets for Hungry Spring Bass

Early-season coves can be magnets for bass as they move in to gorge on forage. Here's how to hone in.

Find the Hot Pockets for Hungry Spring Bass

Coves offer bass all they need early in the season: warm water temperatures, forage and structure from which to ambush prey. (Photo by Larry Larsen)

It was a cool morning when my brother Ron and I moved into a wide cove behind a rip-rap wall and bridge abutment just off the main body of a small Southern reservoir. That was several years ago but I still remember the "lesson." We cast repeatedly to a submerged bridge structure off the main channel, which produced next to nothing. Clear skies and a brilliant, warming sun highlighted a smaller, meandering cove about a half-mile up one of the arms from our location.

We decided to move there, believing the shallower cove would offer a higher water temperature and a better opportunity to catch largemouths. It had abundant brush mid-way back in the arm, and in the following hour we caught eight post-spawn bass in that cove’s warmer waters.


DIFFERENTIALS

Anyone who has spent time fishing impoundments has noticed that some coves hold many more bass in certain seasons than other coves. On many reservoirs in the South, there are often big differences between coves. Being able to quickly pick the better ones and identify the prime bass cover and locations within them will help you catch more fish.

The environmental differences and resulting productivity between coves on a typical reservoir in the late-spring to early-summer months can often be substantial. As the daytime temperatures begin to warm, individual coves are affected differently depending on many factors, including water chemistry and forage density and movement.


Habitat within the coves and arms of a reservoir may also vary greatly, and variables such as the emergence of vegetation, topography and the presence of structure and special features can enhance or deter fishing success in individual coves.

Bass action in coves heats up just after the spawn when hungry fish move out of the shallow bedding areas to slightly deeper habitat to feed. Largemouths often take up residence on the edges of cover in smaller coves adjacent to some of the nursery grounds. As the warmer weather heats up shallow coves, particularly those with submerged creek channels and run-ins, largemouths move farther back into them.

WHERE TO LOOK

Generally, the better coves in reservoirs are the ones situated in rolling hills that feature an abundance of flooded timber and underbrush. The most productive coves often have clear water with a visibility from the surface down to about 3 feet. They also typically have some new growth of hydrilla or coontail as deep as light penetration permits. To find such spots in the cove, a good topographical chart and a quality sonar unit come in handy.

Bass-In-Coves
Find a good cove, and you'll find a concentration of aggressive, post-spawn fish. (Photo by Larry Larsen)

Ideal coves have one or more tributary creeks. Those with moving water and/or freshwater springs may be the ultimate for catching bass in late spring and early summer. Some of the most productive ones may also have a mixture of both clear-water areas and murky areas. Earlier in the year, those coves with small, flowing tributaries adjacent to spawning flats will normally warm up before the main-lake water does. In waters containing spotted and/or smallmouth bass, coves with abundant gravel areas and steep shorelines that warm up quickly each day normally attract bass.




WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Some of the features of a productive cove in late spring and early summer are often very evident, while others are inconspicuous and easily overlooked. For example, a prime area for active bass contains various types of habitat, including new growth, submerged grass lines—which provide suitable cover for aquatic organisms necessary to maintain a good ecosystem—and of course, abundant forage. Such areas also provide suitable cover for bass, particularly during low-water periods before early-summer showers become common and raise water levels.

Bass-In-Coves
Fishing isolated structure in a shallow cove produced this hefty largemouth for the author. (Photo by Larry Larsen)

For coves to be most productive, they should have patches of isolated emergent weed beds, stumps, laydowns and numerous other types of cover that are more visible. The very best of the best coves, however, will offer a mix of habitat and topography. That is, they will have areas of standing timber, shallow humps and creek channels, submerged vegetation or a fringe of bushes such as willow and button brush. They will also probably have some deep water with adjacent flats, as well as gently sloping banks and steep shorelines. Find a cove with a combination of these features, and you’ve found one worth fishing.

Recommended


COVE GAME PLAN

In coves with relatively clear water, timber, other structure and ample forage, many of the bigger largemouths may be caught on small, mid-depth crankbaits and hard-plastic minnow baits. In the early summer months, such lures with a shiner or bluegill pattern are very effective when slowly cranked with an occasional pause past cover. In early summer, young-of-year forage is small in stature but abundant in most reservoir spawning coves. In clear waters, select diving cranks, lipless rattling plugs and minnow baits of 1/4 to 1/2 ounce; in stained or windblown waters, use slightly larger baits of 1/2 to 3/4 ounce for better visibility to predators.

For the same reason, spinnerbaits with small Colorado (stained waters) or willow leaf (clearer waters) blades can be productive around brush in the back halves of coves. They also function as a bass locator, and if there is already new hydrilla that has grown near the surface, a 3/8-ounce spinnerbait can slow-walk along and "tick" the tops of the vegetation to trigger bites. Post-spawn largemouth can be very aggressive, and a slowed-rolled spinnerbait in white, chartreuse, yellow or a combination thereof often entices a strike when fished through mid-depths and near the bottom in narrow cove locations.

Bass-In-Coves
The best bass coves feature brush-lined banks, submerged vegetation or timber, and varying topography and water depths. (Photo by Larry Larsen)

A successful angler will also normally employ surface baits such as topwater plugs and buzzbaits. Since cove bass are not holding extremely tight to cover in late spring or early summer, a buzz bait puttering along on the surface can also be very effective in the flats near the back of coves. If the baits come in contact with wood structure or aquatic vegetation without hanging up on the retrieve, they should garner plenty of strikes. Topwater plugs are easier to fish on shallow flats in the early summer when the vegetation is just beginning to flourish. Tail-spinner, walking and popping plugs fished at medium retrieves all account for productive trips to smaller and warmer coves.

Once bass have been located, switch to slower baits, such as soft-plastic worms, grubs, tubes, flukes and swimbaits. If the day starts off with a bright sun and the conditions warrant it, flip or pitch a black or chartreuse jig-and-crawfish trailer into cover to locate bass. The slower, forage-imitating baits are ideal for "cover crawls" around dense brush or timber and for bottom-scraping humps and ridges with some form of structure. Large bass in deeper impoundments may be more topographically inclined (relating to cover and topographical changes) and use bottom routes to their feeding grounds.

Cove Analysis on Typical Small Southern Reservoir

Bass-In-Coves
Illustration by Peter Sucheski

Cove A

  • This wide cove has new-growth vegetation on shallow flats midway back. The width allows wave action from a southern or southeastern wind to warm the back end of the cove and to move both forage and plankton toward the upper end. Forage and new vegetation near the mid-depths should attract active bass in the early summer.

Cove B

  • A small cove with good drop-offs on the eastern side and laydowns on the probable spawning flats opposite the depths offers anglers access to big bass. The draw for the fish is good structure with nearby spawning flats close to mid-depth waters. Check out the pockets that may be visible on the flats near the cover. Some runoff or creek flow and southern winds will help position the early-summer bass on edges.

Cove C

  • A few islands with good drops and an irregular shoreline make the back half of this cove potentially productive. Find the best drops from shallow water, paying particular attention to those around the islands. A southern wind would benefit the bass angler looking for a big fish.

Cove D

  • A tributary cove might attract some bass to structure like laydowns or docks located close to the current. Look for a good drop adjacent to such cover and note the water color and visibility. Incoming flow with good characteristics is ideal for activating bass. Locate mid-depth channel bends, especially those with some form of structure on them, to find a concentration of fish.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Sometimes you have to fish a bait that allows you to cover a lot of water efficiently. When you're on the search for bass that have moved into deeper water off the bank and away from obvious holding spots, a swimbait can locate them.
Fishing

On the Search with Swimbaits

One of the best imitations of a wounded baitfish is the soft-plastic jerkbait, or fluke. A fluke darting just beneath the surface can be too much for a bass to resist. Rig it and fish it according to water conditions and cover to make this great bait even more effective.
Fishing

Fun with Flukes

There are three models in SPRO's Outsider crankbait series: 55 (runs 3-4 feet), 60 (7-9) and 80 (19-21). Professional bass angler Jonathan Kelley goes over the specifics at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.
Fishing

SPRO's New Outsider Crankbait Series: First Look

Professional bass angler Jonathan Kelley highlights the features of SPRO's new lures at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.
Gear

New Essential Series Spinnerbaits and Buzzbaits from SPRO

Syd Ribes with Sea Falcon highlights four new lures for saltwater fishing. At ICAST 2022 in Orlando.
Gear

New Lineup of Lures from Sea Falcon

Syd Ribes highlights two new saltwater lures from SPRO: Flutter Tail Shrimp and Cannon Ball Jig. At ICAST 2022 in Orlando.
Gear

New Saltwater Lures from SPRO

AFTCO's Matt Florentino highlights the features of the new Barricade cold-weather suit, a Best of Category winner at ICAST 2022 in Orlando. With Game & Fish's Adam Heggenstaller.
Gear

New from AFTCO: Barricade Cold Weather Tactical Gear

Three-time ICAST Best of Category winner Bubba covers it all with new knives set. With Bubba's Matt Kinamore and Game & Fish's  Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.
Gear

4-in-1 Bubba Multi Flex Cutlery Kit

The innovative landing net will weigh and measure your catch while it's still in the net. Best of Category winner at ICAST 2022. With Game & Fish's Adam Heggenstaller.
Gear

Award-Winning Frabill Witness Net 'Keeps You Honest'

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now