Although there are days on the water while pre-spawn bass fishing where you can keep one rod in your hand all day, it’s still hard for me to nail down a top 5 pre-spawn baits list. I have had phenomenal days in the early spring with a dozen or more different baits.
So I’m going to look at this as a list of baits that I’d recommend you not leave behind depending on the style fishery you are on during the pre-spawn. I’ll also add a couple of honorable mentions at the bottom.
Lure #1 for Pre-Spawn Bass Fishing: Spinnerbait/ChatterBait – Best all-around
Though I’ve written an entire article on the differences between these two baits, I still want to lump them together in this particular piece as the best all-around pre-spawn bait. Regardless of the cover on your fishery, a Spinnerbait or Chatterbait will typically work really well in the pre-spawn. Fish hanging around grass, wood, rock, and docks are all susceptible to one of these two baits.
If the fish are super shallow, these work well.
If they’re staging a little deeper, you can count the bait down, adjust the weight of your bait, or the speed of your retrieve. So these two baits allow you to fish throughout the vast range of the water column where fish should be in any pre-spawn situation.
These two baits also create a lot of disturbance, which helps to trigger bass that are still somewhat lethargic in relatively cold water. And their vibration and flashy blade and color options help fish find the bait in the stained to muddy water that often comes along with later winter and early spring rains. All of this makes these two baits the best all-around in my opinion.
Lure #2 for Pre-Spawn Bass Fishing: Lipless Crankbait – Covering Water
Though it may not be my second favorite way to catch them necessarily, the lipless crankbait deserves to be near the top of the list when it comes to baits you shouldn’t leave home without during the pre-spawn since it allows you to cover so much water.
An important part of the puzzle when locating pre-spawn fish.
Across the country and especially on famed ‘big-fish’ fisheries like Lake Guntersville, the lipless crank has triggered countless strikes from fish as they stage and feed up for the spawn. The bait has an alluring power to it that draws fish in and makes them react.
Whether you’re ripping the bait through submerged vegetation, steadily retrieving it across a shallow flat or yo-yoing it in 15-feet of water, a lipless crankbait has the ability to unlock the jaws of pre-spawn bass and, like a Spinnerbait and Chatterbait, allows you to fish the majority of the water column where fish should be during the pre-spawn.
Lure #3 for Pre-Spawn Bass Fishing: Squarebill – Power with Finesse
A squarebill crankbait is probably my second favorite pre-spawn bait due to the types of fisheries I frequent most this time of year. Although you can certainly catch fish ticking over the top of submerged vegetation with a squarebill, we don’t have a lot of that style fishing in the immediate proximity of my house.
Instead, we have a lot of rock and wood, both great cover for a squarebill.
You can take a squarebill in the spring and crank natural rock or riprap all day and catch fish as they move up from the adjacent deeper water. A squarebill also provides a slightly more finesse option than a Spinnerbait or Chatterbait while still allowing you to power-fish and create a decent amount of disturbance in the water for the fish to find the bait.
Lure #4 for Pre-Spawn Bass Fishing: Football Jig – Something for the Deep
A football jig is another bait that is great in the early spring and capable of covering the majority of the depths you should target this time of year. While its functionality shallow is somewhat limited (only really valuable in less than 10-feet if you’re fishing something like a shallow off-shore roadbed or hump), it does allow you to reach deeper into the depths than most of the other baits I’ve previously mentioned.
In the early pre-spawn, I have caught fish staging 25- to 30-foot deep on a 3/4-ounce football jig in current that I would have been hard-pressed to reach with any other bait.
Then there have been times where I’ve thrown a 1/2-ounce football jig up on a hard spot that was 3- to 5-feet and caught some goods spotted bass.
The real limiting factor when it comes to a football jig is its effectiveness in cover, and cover is often key in the early spring. That’s why the baits that do better around wood and grass are a little higher on the list.
Lure #5 for Pre-Spawn Bass Fishing: Swim Jig – Vegetation 4×4
A swim jig is phenomenal in the spring given the right situation. Though it can also be fished at a wide range of depths and around various cover or none at all, for me a swim jig has one purpose in the spring — shallow vegetation.
With a strong single hook and a weed guard, a swim jig is the perfect all-terrain vehicle to reel through and over thick vegetation in pursuit of the monster bass that are lurking within. A swim jig allows you to let the bait fall down into the holes or sparse grass and then come over the thicker vegetation and dive in again.
This allows you to turn what some would see as one whole grass bed into a series of targets.
Reading vegetation is key to getting bites. A swim jig helps you learn how to do this. When you watch it ride over cover, swim through cover or fall down into the cover, you’ll start to understand how fish stage and relate within what you previously saw as one massive blob of grass.
That’s why, even though a swim jig is very situational and cover oriented, it still lands in my top 5 recommendations as the perfect bait for covering water in vegetation.
Lures for Pre-Spawn Bass Fishing: Honorable Mentions
Punching – Personally, this is my favorite way to catch fish as they near the spawn. Big bass under matted vegetation with pent-up aggression itching to unleash it on the first thing to pops through the mat… but unfortunately, I felt it was a little too situational and regional to include in this list.
Flipping Jigs/Soft Plastics – One of the best ways to catch bass in the pre-spawn, but personally, it’s too slow of a technique to cover enough water and something I more associate with the immediate post-spawn and even spawn when fish actually setup on isolated cover and begin the bedding process.
Shaky Head/Ned Rig – Another arguable contender when you think about the number of fish this style of fishing can produce in the pre-spawn. But for me, the pre-spawn is about power fishing and aggressive bass wanting to annihilate whatever is in their path. So while I’m not arguing the validity of these baits having a rightful place in the top 5, I chose to place them at a close second to the football jig.
Shaye’s Pre-Spawn Bass Fishing Bait Picks
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