Why is this important? Finding fish is the first real step towards catching fish. A lot of bassaholics like myself tend to jump the gun and look for feeding prespawn and even spawning bass as soon as the ice comes off. Other anglers may still be targeting fish in their winter homes with the same ultra slow presentation they used in February. Anglers still in winter bass mode are close but if they adjusted for the transition their catch ratio would double.
To fully understand the transition we must look at both primary seasons on either side. These seasons are winter and spawn and have two distinct behavior patterns. Winter = slow activity and Spawn = aggressive behavior. Prespawn is technically anytime prior to spawn but more specifically refers to a staging period of two or three weeks before the fish move into nesting mode. The transition is a 5 to 10 degree window between winter and prespawn. Not quite winter, not quite prespawn.
Below is an illustration of bass movement when water temps are at 45 degrees and below. Typically the largemouth will find deep structure points and limit their activity greatly. It is not impossible to catch these “winter buckets” but it is extremely difficult. During winter months I try to pinpoint my casts as close to the fish or winter structure as possible and the retrieve is more stop than go. Slow, slow, slow and I practically have to hit the fish in the face to create any type of strike at all. Challenging yes but absolutely grueling at times. Now things are warming up and everything is changing.
(Above: Quality transition bass in flawless shape. One of the things I like about catching bass early is that you see them in pristine condition. Please handle your early bass with care and release all the fish you catch so that they may have a chance to spawn\reproduce. This reproduction is critical to the food chain and system overall.)
Below is an illustration that shows much more area of movement but not quite spawn or prespawn I tend to call this transition “pre-prespawn” but most simply refer to it as early prespawn. The main point trying to be made here is that the fish are transitioning between modes. The fish will be more aggressive than winter but not as eager in spawn in prespawn modes.
Below is yet another graphic trying to define that 5 or 10-degree window that only exists this time of year. This graph is not perfect by any means and will vary greatly per body of water and fish. Sometimes flashy graphics are what help sell a post, article or drive that point home a little better than a lot of words. Really I am just trying to be more like those In-Fisherman guys. Their graphics are pretty sweet.
More on catching bass in the transition:
Cast twice for full potential! The fish may not strike the lure on the first pass. This may be due to the sluggish affects of winter still upon them. The fish may also not be in range to strike on the first pass. That second cast is what will produce the hits for me this time of year. Third or fourth casts are good too but my point here is that anglers should not put a lot of hope or disappointment in the first cast early in the season like they do in summer. Come July the bass will generally explode on the lure first pass faster than a juckyard dog on a couple of teenagers trying to steal hubcaps. Transition bass may take a swing or two before they step up to the plate.
Be ready for anything! Early spring bass bites are not numerous. You may only see a handful of bites, nudges and tugs all day. It is crucial to be alert and be ready to make the most out of those bites when the time comes. Also be ready for other species to join the party this time of year such as trout, perch, walleye and especially crappie (just because I really like crappie and they are looking at prespawn\spawn mode right now).
(Above: Rainbow trout nailing the 4” senko. Trout and a few other species tend to get more active than the sluggish transition bass trying to shake off that winter hangover. I just roll with whatever hits. All fish of the day released with minimal harm. This is a 2/0 hook by the way…crazy. I was very pleased to see this fish power off with only a pierced lip.)
Hopefully this post will help focus that early season bass jones towards the transition and help you get more fish. I also hope that more people release those big ol bucket bass this year rather than keeping them. Keeping bass this time of year can have a tremendous impact on the quality of future sport fishing and the forage base overall for that year. Fishing in Colorado is “good” but could be so much better.
My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.