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Sight Fishing Part 2

Published on May 11, 2010

Water temperature is the key factor that determines when bass will move up in the shallows to spawn. The overwhelming majority of fish that I catch from the beds have come from water temperatures in the 60s. However, surface temperatures alone can be very misleading.

In the early spring, when the main lake is in the low 50s, we can have a warm sunny day that brings the surface temperatures into the mid 60s in the backs of shallow coves. Then, as soon as the sun goes down, the water temperatures quickly go back down into the 50s.

I consider that an artificial temperature. Morning temperatures are a much better indicator of when you can expect to find fish on the beds in the early spring. Once the morning temperatures get above 60, there should be some bedding bass.

After they get some eggs on the bed, they are more likely to stick around — even if the water temperatures fall. I've caught bedding bass in water as cold as 52 degrees. But the day before the snowstorm that brought the temperatures down, they were in the mid 60s and the fish just moved up.

Besides water temperature, another indicator is the dogwood trees. When you start seeing white blooms, there will most likely be some early spawners. They will only be in a select few areas, and the prespawn pattern is usually more productive, but I often choose to sight fish even though it may not be the best pattern.

Since most bedding bass will be in 60- to 70-degree water, I queried the BASSlog for fish caught in the spring with water temperatures in the 60s. There were more fish caught on shallow flats than all other structures combined. That tells me that most fish caught in the spring were in the shallows to spawn.

There isn't any mechanism in the BASSlog to tell which fish were caught by sight fishing and which were caught casting blindly. But it can be assumed that most fish caught on certain baits were caught by sight fishing.

My best baits for big fish are Texas rigged tubes, lizards and jigs. For medium-sized fish (2 to 5 pounds), I prefer lizards, craws, straight-tailed worms and caterpillar type baits on a Texas rig. I rarely fish for smaller fish, but when I do, I match tactics to the circumstance.

As for colors, there are two colors you can see easily in the water: bubble gum (pink) and white. Sometimes bright chartreuse will stand out, but pink and white are usually more visible. If you are on a shallow enough bed, it is fun to watch the fish take the bait. So those bright colors can be fun. And there are times when it doesn't matter what you throw. In fact, I once found a 5-pounder that was so dedicated to the bed that I jokingly told my client I could catch her on a cigarette butt. He handed me a butt and told me to prove it. It took several attempts, but I got her in the boat before the filter turned to mush.

I find fish like that quite often, but in most cases, it does make a difference what baits and colors you throw. In my experience, bubble gum and white are fun, but not the most effective colors. Natural colors (like green pumpkin, watermelon and black) are usually more effective at getting bites.

If you're a beginner, you may want to use the bright colors to see what your bait is doing. Once you get the hang of it, you can switch to natural colors and get the fish to bite quicker.

I'll get into more detail later, but the main idea is to find beds with fish on them and work a bait into the nest as if it's attacking the eggs. The fish will bite as a defensive response. To see a picture of a spawning bed, click here.

To see what the eggs look like up close, click here.

It is very uncommon to see eggs this close. Normally, they are much deeper and not visible to the naked eye. These fish spawned on some shallow weeds and it looks like they floated higher and/or the water dropped soon after the female laid the eggs. These eggs are in only a few inches of water. Both fish were present when I took these pictures, but I got so close to the bed that they spooked away for a few minutes.

Check back in two weeks, and I'll have part 3 of "Sight fishing for bass."

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