t’s like attending a concert where the opening act is as good, or better than
the headliner. That’s the pre-spawn — a period of incredible opportunity for
those willing to put in the requisite search effort. Bryant Smith, the Roseville, Calif. pro who makes his Bassmaster Elite Series
debut this year, knows well the pre-spawn potential. He loves the bed fish game
as much as anyone, but when the big gals are heading to the bank, he’s expecting
“It’s one of the best times to catch one of the biggest limits you’ll catch all year,”
Smith said. “The biggest fish in the lake will be most susceptible to be caught; and
on top of that, they’ll be at their heaviest weight of the entire year.”
The best part about it, these heavyweights are in the chewing mood. “Once
you find them, they’re a 10 out of 10 on the aggression level, because their job that
time of year is to feed up and get ready for the spawning ritual,” Smith said. “They’re
on the hunt, for sure. They want to eat, they want to fatten up and get out of that
“They know they have a limited time before they go spawn, so they gotta make
If this sounds awesome, it is. It’s just not a gimme. Fish gotta eat; fishermen gotta find ‘em. The most efficient option will always come down to covering water.
“Just keep moving and paying attention to the conditions,” Smith said. “It’s the time of year when weather and previous weather conditions affect them the most because it’s constantly changing.
“Keeping it fresh and constantly rotating through areas; don’t keep fishing the same stuff over and over again. It’s a big search that time of year. There are different stages of the pre-spawn and you have to figure out what stage they are in and how far along they are.”
Smith’s pretty good with a flipping stick and no one’s suggesting such tactics aren’t pre-spawn relevant. However, with things moving quickly this time of year, reaction-style presentations take center stage.
“Moving baits are my bread and butter this time of year, because there tends to be a lot of dead water,” Smith said. “Moving baits help you eliminate a lot of that dead water and find the fish quicker.
“You can slow down once you find them, but the whole key this time of year is to find where the majority of them are. Once you develop a pattern and find a high percentage area, you can slow down.”
Notably, when Smith slows down in the pre-spawn, he often still has one of those reaction baits in his hand.
“I don’t always slow down with a dropshot or a worm; sometimes, I just slow down my moving baits,” he said. “All the baits that I use to find them, I’m gonna be more thorough and pick that area apart a little more.”
TOOLS FOR THE TASK
When Smith’s rigging up for a pre-spawn outing, he keeps it simple with a couple of tried-and-true performers relevant to the habitat. Here’s how he breaks it down.