Bass fishermen look forward to spring all year. Beginning in April, it’s the best time to catch bass, since they are moving to shallow water to spawn, then back to deeper water. If you go out and just cast to random places you will catch some bass, but keying on prime cover can greatly increase your catch.
As soon as days start getting significantly longer in February, bass get the urge to spawn. They start slowly moving toward bedding areas, no matter how cold the water. When the water warms consistently into the 50s they move faster. This movement is the pre-spawn.
As soon as the females drop their eggs they head to structure and cover a little deeper near the spawning flats. For a while they don’t feed much, resting and recovering. Meanwhile, males are guarding beds and protecting fry for a few days.
A week or so after the spawn both males and females feed actively during the post spawn before moving deeper to their summer holes. During all three stages of the spawn bass can be caught on a variety of baits.
But where do you fish? If you are familiar with good spawning areas on your lake you know where to start. If not, studying a good map to locate pockets and small creeks, especially on the north side of the lake (since they get more sun during the day), will head you in the right direction.
A ditch or old channel leading into the spawning flats in the back of the pockets make them a lot better. Bass use these channels as highways, pausing along them to feed going both ways. Stumps, brush, laydown trees, rocks and docks in the pocket give bass specific cover to feed and bed on.
This is the time of year to cover water with fast baits until you find a concentration of fish or find the areas of creeks and coves they are using. Both pre-spawn and post-spawn have scattered, moving, feeding fish. Locating them is crucial to consistent catches.
Start at the mouth of the pocket and fish to the back with crankbaits, topwater and spinnerbaits. When you start catching fish, note the area of the pocket. Bass are likely to be in the same kinds of areas in other pockets.
To catch bigger fish, stop and pick apart cover you find on the way into the pockets. If you catch some fish near it, more and bigger fish are probably holding in the cover. Docks offer a variety of things bass like, and they can be key.
Many docks lining a bank going into the spawning pocket may look good, and you can catch fish by working them, but it can be a slow process. The fish will be scattered among the docks. A few docks along a bank concentrate the fish and are much easier to fish.
Docks offer shade, cover and a good feeding area. Floating docks give shade, their floats will warm from the sun and warm the water around them a little, often making a big difference. Cables for the floating docks are used as feeding cover for bass.
Docks with posts are even better since they provide the shade, but the posts also offer vertical cover from the bottom to the top. And the posts are sometimes set in concrete, so the bottom around the post will be hard, often uneven, and attract baitfish and crawfish. The posts will have algae growing on them and baitfish feed on it, so they are a great feeding place.
Many docks have the added advantage of brush piles under and around them. Brush is an ideal cover for bass, offering them ambush points for the baitfish feeding on algae growing on it. It often covers a column of water giving bass ease of vertical movement. And it provides additional, darker shade for them.
The ideal dock will sit half way back into the cove. It will be on a seawall that drops a foot or two straight down and has rock or gravel along the base. The water will slope slowly out, dropping a little but not straight down. And there will be a bend in the channel swinging in at the front or under the dock where there is a sharp drop.
Some stumps and big rocks on the bottom near the seawall and around the dock are a bonus, as is brush along the side, front and below the it. A hard clay or sand bottom is best. And the more shade the dock provides the better fish like it. An enclosed boat house on a dock will draw more bass than a simple frame dock that allows lots of light under it.
To fish a dock, approach it slowly and quietly. If you are fishing down the bank, slow down well away from the dock ease within casting distance and start with casts that enter the water quietly. Make multiple casts, covering all areas of the dock.
You will often find the bass holding on one specific place on a dock, and it can be consistent in other areas. If you catch a bass off the float or post on the sunny side corner, hit those on other docks with your first cast.
Bass like to spawn along seawalls near dock walkways, so make casts around the wall and under the walkway. Watch for bass on beds there, too, if the water is clear enough to see them.
Many baits will catch fish off docks. If you have been catching bass on a specific bait working down the bank, make casts to the dock with it. Faster-moving crankbaits. topwater and spinnerbaits can be good, especially for bass suspending under floats and along the edges of walkways.
Always slow down and pick apart a productive dock with other baits, too. A soft jerkbait, worm or stickbait rigged weightless and twitched slowly along the walkway and float takes more time but often gets more bites. And they skip better under docks than crankbaits or spinnerbaits.
Getting far under docks, in the darkest shade, can make the difference between catching and casting. It takes practice skipping a bait, but it will make a difference. You want your bait to skitter along the surface like a fleeing baitfish, then fall straight down like a hurt baitfish. At the end of the skitter, give your line slack, feeding it so the bait falls vertically.
Watch your line carefully for a tick or twitch, indicating a bite on the fall. Also set your hook if your bait does not fall as far as expected based on the depth of the water. Suspended bass will suck in a bait and sit there, not moving, and can be hard to detect before they feel you and spit the bait out.
A jig-and-pig or jig-head worm are excellent baits to fish around docks. They come through brush under it fairly well, skip easily, and look like an easy meal. Action and weight is more important than color. At times bass want movement in the bait so try a half-ounce jig with a twin tail trailer that wiggles as it falls fast. If they seem to want less action, try a lighter jig, use a chunk-type trailer, or go to a straight-tail worm on a shaky head.
If the brush is thick a Texas-rigged worm allows you to fish it better. It comes through thick brush, especially with a light sinker, better than a jig or shaky head. Crawl your worm over, around and through the brush. Try to work the edges of big brush piles before the middle to reduce hang-ups and disturbing the bass.
Be sure to cover all the water from the very edge of the shore to the end of the dock and around it. Cover the full water column beside and under the dock. Run a buzzbait or other topwater through the shallows and beside the floats or walkway. Let a weightless bait like a weightless worm or stick bait fall slowly under it. And bump the bottom with jig or worm.
Remember that the bass use the same cover pre- and post-spawn, so a good dock will produce fish for a lot of the spring. Bass move in in waves to spawn, not all at one time, You can catch bass in all stages at the same time.
When the spawn is in full swing more bass are likely to be further back in a cove and shallower. Watch for beds if the water is clear enough to see them. If not, watch for water movement indicating a bass actively working a bed.
Sight fishing can be good but takes a lot of time. Many baits, from jigs to weightless worms, soaked in the bed will work when you see a fish you want to try to catch.
If water color does not allow you to see the beds, you can fan cast likely shallows with a Carolina rigged lizard, dragging it slowly along where the beds are located. Use heavy enough sinker to feel a hard bottom and concentrate on it. Bumping stumps or rocks should make you stop your bait and let it sit a little since bass like to bed beside such cover.
Wind can make bass bite better around docks, but strong wind makes it difficult to cast a light bait. Fortunately, a spinnerbait, crankbait or heavy jig usually works well since fish are more active. Waves slapping floats, walkways and posts gets the baitfish stirred up, turning on the bass. Run a spinnerbait or crankbait along them. Drop the spinnerbait down so it tracks just below the bottom edge or choose a crankbait that runs at that depth. Sometimes reeling the bait as fast as you can or ripping it with jerks of your rod will make a bass bite.
Current can be tricky, especially when bass are spawning. If current is moving under the dock, position your boat so your bait moves with the current as you retrieve it, so it looks natural.
If current is caused by rain run off in a nearby ditch, it will make bass feed, but a lot of current dumping muddy water around a dock can turn off the spawn, especially if it is cooler than the lake water.
Be aware of your shadow when approaching and fishing a dock. When the sun is low, your shadow moving across a bass may keep it from hitting. Your shadow over a brush pile in deeper water in front or side of a dock often stops the bite.
Docks can provide excellent places to catch spring bass. Don’t overlook them.