Pre-Spawn Bass Tactics with Mark Romanack

Today’s post comes from Mark Romanack of Fishing 411 with Mark RomanackYou can learn more about Mark be visiting his website or watch his show on Tuesdays at 2:00 AM ET and 5  PM ET, or Sundays at 11 AM ET.

The world of “catch and release” has changed bass fishing forever.  Now that most states have adopted no kill seasons, the bass fishing fun begins weeks and even months before these fish spawn.

The tactics used to catch bass in the early spring vary considerably from those commonly used in the summer By making some simple adjustments in mind set and the places fished, early spring bass angling can be some of the best action of the year.

Mark Romanack

Mark Romanack, host of Fishing 411 recommends using jerkbaits to target shallow water pre-spawn largemouth and smallmouth bass.


Both smallmouth and largemouth bass love to hunt for minnows, crayfish and frogs in extremely shallow water. This pattern starts immediately following the ice melting. When the majority of the lake is icy cold, a ribbon of warmer water forms along the shorelines where the sun can quickly warm water temperatures. The north shore of these lakes get the best sun exposure and are the first to warm and attract fish. Dark bottom areas warm quickly and start to attract fish first. Gradually other bottom types like sand, gravel or clay warm up and start attracting fish.  For several weeks these fish feed actively and spawning is the last thing on their minds.


When bass hit the shallows, the water is so skinny the back of the fish is nearly exposed! Almost always when a fish strikes, the water boils on the surface! Fishing in water this shallow forces the angler to cast a fair distance to avoid spooking the fish.  Unweighted soft plastics are ideal for this style fishing. Wacky rigged worms, Texas Rigged Flukes, action tail grubs, paddle grubs and beavers are great baits for pitching into the shallows. A seven foot medium light spinning outfit equipped with six pound test fluorocarbon line is the ideal way to fish these lightweight baits.  Shallow bass aren’t typically found just setting out in the open. Bass like to snuggle up to cover when possible, and use these spots as ambush sites. Sunken wood, rocks, dock posts, sea walls, clumps of cattail or other vegetation are all great visual targets to try.

As the spring progresses, anglers can travel north to encounter cooler waters and extend their pre-spawn fishing action. Here Fishing 411 pro staffers Jake Romanack (left) and Kendall Ulsh show off some amazing Grand Traverse Bay smallmouth caught (and released) near Traverse City, Michigan.


Jerkbaits and shallow diving crankbaits can also be effective when the bite heats up. These hard baits are ideal for fishing over the top of emerging weed flats that often attract the most fish.


Fishing for pre-spawn and spawning bass requires anglers to exercise good ethics. It’s important to return landed fish to the water as soon as possible. If you want a photo, keep your camera handy, snap a quick pic and release the fish immediately.  By starting with lakes in the southern part of an angler’s fishing area and moving north as warmer weather encroaches, anglers can tap into great pre-spawn fishing opportunities for several weeks. So long as anglers respect the resource and handle fish with care, no harm is done to future fishing opportunities.

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