By Jonathan Olivier
For bass fishermen, spring has its share of ups and downs.
The ups, of course, are the greatest chance of the year to land a trophy-sized bass during the much coveted and awaited spawn; the time of year when anglers catch female bass guarding nests, which are easy to spot in shallow water.
The downs, unfortunately, are when anglers realize they have missed the peak of the spawn, and large, female bass no longer sit on nests for easy spotting.
The spawn occurs when the water warms and fish lay eggs on nests, which they aggressively protect from would-be predators. Anglers can often be caught sight fishing, meaning they find a bass on a nest, and reel a lure next to the fish until it strikes.
If you haven’t been bass fishing yet, the peak of the spawn has passed, but not by much.
While most years, the fish would be in a post-spawn routine this time of spring, protecting fry or residing near heavy cover, most aren’t.
According to Mark Mathews, owner of Superior Bait and Tackle in Baton Rouge, the peak of the spawn this year occurred late last week and into the weekend with the full moon.
“It stayed colder, longer than it has been in the last decade,” he said. “The fish normally would have spawned in February or March. They are spawning now.”
But, on the bright side, the peak doesn’t mean fish still aren’t on beds and spawning.
The go-to methods to catch a lunker bass that still may be spawning are soft plastics like a sweet beaver or a jig.
“In the past, we would sell a lot more lizard [baits],” Mathews said. “It seems like we sold a few more lizards like we did in the past. It seems like this year they showed up again. [Lizards] are a nest robber. The bass will move it off the bed if you can agitate her into attacking the bait.”
Some fish on beds will pick up bait in their mouth, not to eat it, but to physically move it away from eggs, which gives the angler a chance to set the hook.
At times, bass will aggressively attack baits that invade their beds, while other times it takes patience and persistence on the angler’s part. But in each scenario, shallow water is key.
With the Atchafalaya River on the rise, Mathews said the fishing may be tougher within the confines of the spillway levees. Shallow water will be harder to find, thus, so will spawning bass.
However, places like Lake Verret near Pierre Part aren’t as affected by rising water, and bass will still be easily located.
Pat’s Bay, accessed by Jack Miller’s landing near Plaquemine, and Belle River, farther south, have been areas producing quality bass, as well.
Areas farther from the capital city, which Mathews said anglers have been having success this year, include Toledo Bend and Okhissa Lake near Meadville, Miss.
Fish will be in a post-spawn, transitional period toward the end of the month. The period after the spawn, before summer patterns when fish find deeper water, are where bass are protecting fry and moving from the shallow spawning areas to spots with thick cover.
Post-spawn bass can be caught with top-water baits or spinnerbaits, which mimic other predator fish that may be attempting to eat juvenile bass.
But no matter the period, spawn or post-spawn, weather will be one of the key factors as to if you come home empty handed or with a stringer of fish.
“A front is a big deal this time of year,” Mathews said. “If you get a blue bird sky, high pressure day, after a front, you have to fish real tight to cover. When the pressure is low, they will feed better.”