"Set the hook!" I exclaimed recently while Black Fishing on Lake Livingston. The anglers rod bent double with a solid hook set as the spawning Black Bass swam off with the four inch Texas rigged red flake pumpkin seed lizard. There is no more excitement in fresh water fishing than fishing for Black Bass during their annual spawn. Now is the time of year the average angler will have his or her best chance at landing a trophy Black Bass. "Sows" or female Black Bass heavy with eggs move into shallow water five feet or less every Spring around mid to late March to deposit their eggs. Here, anglers with all levels of experience from the beginner to the seasoned pro can connect with a legitimate trophy.

In early Spring as water temperature climbs into the high 40s and low 50s, Black Bass begin moving from their deep Winter holds to the mouths of large coves. Bass will migrate following submerged creeks and ditches towards the spawning coves. These ditches or "highways" to the spawning areas are where prespawn Bass will congregate. Timing is critical for success. As late season cold fronts push through, water temperature will fluctuate. A drop of several degrees in water temperature will move the fish back to the prespawn area where they will become inactive. With a sustained water temperature in the 60s, the fish will then move down the migration routes and into the shallow backwater of protected coves. The "bucks" or male bass, will move into the spawning area first. Here, they prepare a nest site while the females remain in deeper water. As the sun warms the water over the shallow coves, the females will then follow the migration routes into the coves to deposit their eggs in the nests.

Casting to shallow shoreline structure is always enjoyable but during the spawn the average anglers chances of scoring a trophy are magnified ten fold. Spawning Black Bass can be taken on a variety of baits and techniques. The spinner bait and plastic lizards are two top choices. The spinner bait covers water fast and doesn't take much technique or finesse to fish. Simply casting it out and reeling it in will produce fish. Stopping the bait in mid-retrieve and letting it fall will often trigger aggressive strikes. Fishermen should vary the speed of their retrieve to see what the fish like. Use a 3/8 oz spinner bait when fishing close in to the bank and 1/2 oz for water 3 - 5 feet deep. When fishing clear water, use tandem silver willow leaf blades. When fishing stained water, use a tandem gold Colorado front blade and a gold Indiana rear blade. As for skirt color, use white in clear water and chartreuse in stained water. With Lake Livingston stained in many areas now from local rains, the extra flash and vibration of the spinner bait will make it a top choice for spawning Black Bass.

The Texas rigged plastic lizard has probably caught more fish off the beds than any other lure. It is fished slower than the spinner bait and covers less water. The lizard can be used to target specific fish on the nest and will often take less aggressive fish. One way to fish a spawning cove is to go through it first with the spinner bait covering water quickly and catching the more aggressive fish. Then, come back through the same area with the lizard fishing more deliberate and concentrating on key areas such as visible nest, lay downs, rocks and brush piles.

Targeting a specific fish on the nest is the most exciting and challenging aspect of Black Bass fishing. In clear water you can use a good pair of polarized sunglasses to locate the nest and then target a specific fish. These fish however are often nervous and spook easily. Be as quiet as you can , stay low in the boat, make your approach to the nest with the sun in your face so you do not cast a shadow on the fish. Big sows on a nest can get finicky. Targeting a specific fish on a nest may take hours to get the fish to bite. Cast the lizard past the fish then slowly crawl it by the nest using only your rod tip to move the bait and your reel to take up slack line. A smaller lizard is less likely to spook the fish and will trigger more bites. Often, a Bass will pick up a bait just to move it away from the nest. By using the smaller lizard, it is more likely to get the hook in the fish's mouth. Also, a good fish attractant added to the lizard will encourage the Bass to hold on to the bait longer.

When fishing stained water such as it is on many places of Lake Livingston now, a larger lizard 6 or even 10 inches will be more visible. Also, rattles or beads can be added to create a vibration for fish to home in on in off colored water. As far as lizard colors, here on Lake Livingston, black/chartreuse, red flake pumpkin seed, black/blue and June bug have all been good. Generally, in stained water, use the darker lizards. In clear water use lighter colors.

Fishing for the elusive Black Bass during the spawn is the most exciting time of year for the average angler. Now, fishermen of all capabilities, from the beginner to the seasoned pro, have an equal opportunity at landing a trophy Black Bass while fishing shallow water during the Spring spawn.

Dave Cox of Palmetto Guide Service is a regular contributor to the Lake Livingston edition of the Texas Sportsguide.  This article has previously appeared in that publication.

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