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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Should You Fish for Bedding Bass?

Hooked on

Lake Wedowee

by Reed Montgomery



This is often a very controversial subject among today’s bass anglers. However, the art of fishing for bedding bass during the height of the spring spawn should be observed from both sides.

Some think it is best to wait and fish for these shallow water bass during the post-spawn period. Others say it’s okay to fool these often very weary bass into striking your fake offering, as long as the bass is then returned to the bed it was taken from.

The post-spawn period usually takes place during a short time frame — from around early May to the latter part of May — this is when the majority of these Lake Wedowee bass have completed their annual ritual of bedding and they are very hungry!

When bedding is over and done, these bass are recuperating and some have not eaten regularly in weeks. But when they do eat, they go on a major feeding spree right before summer begins.

By the month of June most of the lake’s male and female bass have already bed and the majority of Lake Wedowee’s bass then begin fattening up for the long, hot summer months ahead.

So, if this often controversial subject offends you or if fishing for bedding bass is just not your idea of a fair way of fishing for these creatures, you may not want to go fishing until this summer! But, if this technique intrigues you, and you plan on releasing both the male bass and the bigger female bass right where you caught them…then read on!



WHEN DO THESE BASS BEGIN TO

PREPARE THESE BEDS?

Lake Wedowee’s bass usually begin pairing up and making those little rounded out beds, easily seen on the lake’s bottom, around the first week or two of April. Some bass may bed earlier in the spring season or some may wait until most other bass have already bed, often seen bedding in late April, or at times, bedding may continue on into early May.

For this, annual ritual of reproducing another year’s offspring to be in perfect working order, both the male and female bass must complete this very stressful ordeal together.

   First, ideal conditions must indicate it’s time for the smaller male bass to begin preparing the bed. This can be when the water temperature is in the low 60’s, meaning many male bass will be crowded in select locations by late March.

   There must be stable, ideal water temperatures in the lake’s shallows, around 68 to 72 degrees, and a full moon nearby, before the female bass will even consider trekking into the lake’s shallow water to lay her eggs.

Stable lake levels for a week or two (not rising or falling), a full moon very close by, and an ideal water temperature are  needed for the majority of the lake’s female bass to bed in the lake’s very shallow water. Still, anglers must keep in mind that not all Lake Wedowee bass will be seen bedding at the same time.

Lake Wedowee’s avid spring time anglers can be assured the majority of the lake’s bass population will be in water less than 3 feet deep during this spawning period during the months of April and May.

Lingering late winter cold fronts can stall the bedding process. Unseasonable early spring warming trends can actually speed up the bedding process, duping these bass into bedding much earlier than usual.

Keeping an eye on the weather, not only during the spring season, but all throughout the rest of the year, can help Lake Wedowee’s anglers adjust accordingly. Otherwise, every outing can be a real challenge.

The ideal water temperature for spawning bass is 72 degrees.





BASS ON THE BEDS

Once this spawning process is in full swing, anglers should be on the lookout for these easy to spot brightly-colored beds. They will stand out as just a bright rounded out circle on the lake’s darker bottom. Make plans to fish a depth of 1-4 feet deep for these bedding bass.

* A good pair of polarized sunglasses (preferably those with side shields), is a must for aiding anglers in locating these bass beds.

Without a good pair of polarized sunglasses, the sun’s glare shining down on the waters surface will often prevent an angler from seeing most bass and their beds. Even a wide brimmed hat will help cut out the glare of the sun.



SPOTTING BASS BEDS

Bass beds can easily be seen, but anglers must focus their efforts in lightly stained water conditions, to some very clear water clarity to be really successful at bed fishing. This can mean constantly looking for a yellowish-colored circle (with most bass beds having a diameter of about 1-2 feet), if the bass has chosen a sandy bottom to bed in.

It can also mean be a reddish-orange colored bed if the bottom composition consists of red clay. Some bass may choose to bed in areas featuring a sandy bottom with small pebbles or small, scattered baseball-sized rocks.

Lake Wedowee’s bass have even been seen bedding right on top of a flat rock, under man made piers or right on top of a flat stump like any one of those thousands of stumps that were left here when the lake was cleared of the standing timber in the lake’s flooded shallows, when impounded in 1983.

Lake Wedowee’s bass will usually avoid having to bed on a composition of a muddy bottom unless that’s all the lake has to offer in any one given area. Muddy bottoms are usually associated with dead, decaying aquatic weeds, and Lake Wedowee has very little aquatic weed growth during the spring season.

During the summer months some aquatic weeds will begin their growth, suddenly appearing in the shallows around the first week of June. These weeds will flourish for about five months until the lake is again drawn down to winter pool in the fall period. Then Lake Wedowee is down for another 6 months, killing most aquatic weeds found lake wide.



SIGHT FISHING

Spotting a bass bed is only the first part of this fishing equation for targeting bedding bass. There is no use in spending your time fishing for a bass that is not actually on the bed or one that cannot actually be seen cruising near the bed. You have got to see the bass as well as the bed they occupy.

This is where the term “sight fishing” comes into focus.

Sight fishing means that the angler thoroughly scans the entire area around any suspect bed, looking for the bass that made the bed! This can be any one of the dozens of smaller male bass in any given bedding area or it can be a big female bass just waiting for the conditions to be right to lay her eggs.

Male bass prepare the bed and then watch over the bed for as long as 30 days, running off any egg-eating intruders (like bream and other baitfish) that constantly hinder the whole overall success of the entire bedding process.

When the thousands of bass egg fry, then begin to hatch, the male bass must spend its time protecting the new born bass fry from predators. After this 30-day bedding process is complete, the small bass fry are then on their own. Left to explore their new watery world without the protection of their parents nearby.



TECHNIQUES FOR

TARGETING

BEDDING BASS

Most adept anglers that have mastered the art of fooling a bedding bass into biting know what lure to choose and when its time to set the hook. Bass that are not interested in your fake offerings may take a while before attempting to remove the intruder from the bed.

Here’s what to look for;

A bass that is “locked on the bed” is a bass that will bite. This is a bass that usually sits motionless, hovering right over the bed or very close to the bed. Spotting the dark silhouette of the bass against the lightly colored background then becomes easier.

In lightly stained water conditions a bass locked on the bed can be aggravated into striking a number of lures, often requiring throwing a lure right into the heart of the bed. An angler may also need to carefully drag a lure off the bank right into the bed for those more skittish bass found in clearer water situations.

In heavily stained water, when targeting bedding bass, you can fish close by most suspect beds by simply fan-casting the entire area. In clear water situations an angler may have to keep the boat a safe distance away, then spot the bed, utilizing long casts to avoid spooking the bass.

Most bed fishing anglers prefer to keep the sun to their back to avoid spooking bass on the beds and to help cut the sun’s glare on the water. Some anglers may fish into the rays of the sun to avoid casting a shadow over the bass or the bed, which can really spook a bass off the bed fast!



LURES

Lures can be an array of offerings. Some lures can be fished on the lake’s bottom right in the bed. other lures may be fished in the middle water column. Even fishing a top water lure can often aggravate a big old bass into striking when all other lures have failed to produce a strike.

Whether an angler chooses to fish a worm, tube bait, lizard, jig combo, creature type bait, fake crayfish, or any one of the dozens of fake plastics today’s anglers have to choose from, always keep in mind to use lures that have colors that are easily seen.

Some anglers may choose to fish a white, chartreuse, yellow or red colored worm, lizard or tube bait. These brightly colored plastics help an angler to see the lure better when it is taken by the bass, and it helps a then prepared angler to get a much better hook set when the bass does strike. Some anglers may prefer darker colored plastics.

These bass engulf a lure real fast. then they swim out away from the bed, then spitting out the lure. This can take place in just a matter of a few seconds. Paying very close attention and setting the hook fast at the proper time is of the utmost importance when bed fishing, if you want to achieve any degree of success!

Watch the bass. It will show you when it is about to strike your lure. Most big, female bass will nose down at the lure, with its tail often straight up, right before flaring its gills and engulfing the intruder. When in doubt…set the hook!



ALWAYS RETURN THE BASS TO THE BED WHERE YOU

CAUGHT IT

When you do successfully fool one or more of these bass into biting your tempting morsels, always unhook it carefully, quickly take its picture, and then return it to the bed immediately.

The longer a bass stays out of the water, the chance for survival decreases. These are weak and very hungry bass that have spent the last few days very stressed out. Treat them like you would want to be treated…if you were a fish...With care.

Don’t allow your boat to drift too far away from where you catch either a smaller male bass or a huge female bass. The bass may not be returned to the same bed in time to save the eggs or newborn bass fry from predators. A big female bass may abandon the bed all together if you take it to far away from its bed, one it cannot return to.

Take their pictures and then let these bass go. Return these bass right where you caught them to assure that another year’s offspring will be here next spring. Give these bass a chance to live and fight another day. To give another angler a thrill in the near future, just like they did for you.

Keep in mind during the spring spawning season, ”The future of fishing depends on you”

Thanks and Good Fishin’

Reed Montgomery / Reeds Guide Service

“ Over 40 Years Fishing Alabama’s Lakes for Bass and Stripers ”

Birmingham, Alabama

Phone (205) 663-1504

www.fishingalabama.com


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