First things first: Which rod, reel, and line to use. The rod I use is an Okuma 7'6" EVX-C-761H-TEV. This is a heavy action rod with good hook setting power and it’s easy to flip! The EVX has a strong back bone with a fast tip for sensitivity. A 6.3:1 Pflueger Trion LP reel, I feel has the perfect flip ability, gear ratio and line capacity for this application. The line I use is P-line CXX 20lbs. This line has great abrasion resistance and low stretch for great hook setting power that will not take away from your rod and reel. It will give you that assurance when fighting a big fish. Line with high stretch will not give you a good hook penetration.
Second is the lure. I keep three baits and three baits only on my deck. A Jig, a tube, and a swim bait. That’s it. I like to use a white or pearl jig with a high rubber thread count that creates a bigger profile. I always use a black or pumpkinseed craw trailer. 1/2oz Assalt King Cobra flipping jig in pearl white with a black Berkley power craw is my go to bait. This bait has good weight to it and great visibility in low light to high noon. It is very easy to see from far away, and very easy to follow under water. Remember, this time of year the only thing you need to consider to determine your bait color is can you see it. Canyon Plastics Giant 7” Tora Tube in pearl white is my back up bait. This bait is used to get a reaction from the female if she is cursing the shallows. This bait you can move at different speeds to provoke that female to return to the nest. Last is a swim bait. Matt Lures makes a male Bluegill perfect for bedding fish and casting while searching for beds. The bait sits naturally on the bottom nose down, like its eating eggs.
Third is boat positioning. If you can see the Bass, the Bass can see you. Remember that Because of the way light is refracted in water, fish have a wide “cone of vision”. It’s about 83 degrees. It is like looking up from the base of an imaginary funnel. As a fish goes deeper, his window to the outside world grows. What’s even more interesting is if the water surface is relatively smooth, a fish can look up and see a mirror-like image of the bottom. This allows him to be aware of either prey or predator beneath him. Bass have their highest cone cell concentrations in the retinal portions closest to the tail. This means that their cone-based (analytical) vision is best looking forward past the nose, worst when looking downward and moderate when looking upward. The more distance you put between yourself and the nest (within visibility) the better. This is when a good set of polarized lenses will come in handy. Position your boat to where you can see the bed, but far enough to be less visible to the fish. Make sure your shadow isn’t on the bed. Keep your trolling motor on a low speed, and turn off the depth finders. You want to be as stealthy as possible, and depth finders make a ticking nose in the water that will spook the big fish.
Fourth is finding the beds. When the water temps hit the high 50’s, the next full moon will push the fish from the “Staging Areas” and into the “spawning flats”. First the males move in and fan out on the beds. The females will stage outside the visual line, which is where the human eye cannot see the bottom any more. These females will feed at dusk and at night. During the staging the females will feed and brush against wood and larger rocks. They bump there bellies against wood to loosen the eggs. In lakes with out that wood structure in the lake, you will see the males “ramming” or “bumping” the females. Next the females will move to the bed to inspect it. If she likes it, they will roll on each other and mate. These fish will be ready late that night or the next day. When I see these fish I will mark them on my GPS, and go to them the next day. The bigger females will spawn next to or on structure with sand flats that have easy access to deeper water. When a fish gets 10+lbs they don’t feel comfortable in the shallows. The Best situation for fishermen is when he finds a nest with a male and female on it and they don’t move when they see you. Remember the eggs are yellow, in the middle of the nest you will see yellow patches. Target those patches and watch the reactions from the bass.
Last is to catch the fish. When you find the fish you want, circle the bed to get your boat into the best possible position. As you are circling, look around the nest and into deep water. Many times the fish I thought were female were in fact just a big male. First I will describe how to fish a bed with a female on it with the male.
After positioning the boat I take my go-to bait, which is a white 1/2oz jig and flip it past the fish (the flip should be far enough past the nest to where the splash doesn’t affect the fish if at all possible). Remember that the fish (“cone of vision”) don’t see as well looking up as they do looking straight ahead. When flipping past the nest you will give the bass a longer time to engage the bait. At first the male will take the bait to protect the female, and just pop it out of his mouth. Tighten the line and pop it, the Bass will taste and feel the hook then spit out the bait. Watch the female, because the minute the male spits the bait the female will start to engage the bait. When the male picks up the bait, you use very small pulls, just like you would jig the bait on the bottom. The male will feel and taste the hook and spit it. Watch the female’s fins and body motions when doing this. Her mannerisms will change and she will engage the bait. Just because she doesn’t go for the bait doesn’t mean she’s not engaged. She will flutter her fins and tail more and you can see her getting excited. She may not eat the bait, but keep casting closer and closer.
Remember, if she eats it once she will eat it again! If she doesn’t take the bait correctly, don’t force a hook set.
Depending on the way she takes it, most of the time I will pop it out of her mouth the first time to get a more violent attack the second time. Just because the female doesn’t go nose down and dart at the bait doesn’t mean she not engaged. Watch the female’s fins and body mannerisms, she will tell you when she’s engaged. The big females will stop moving. Once she moves her Pectoral and Caudal (tail) fins you will know she in engaged! These big females got their size because they are very smart. Keep casting past the nest and jigging it in. Flip past the nest and jig it in. The male will bite, and continue popping it out of his mouth. Keep repeating this. The female will see the male can’t take care of the problem and will eventually eat the bait herself. Its like our wives say, you can’t send a man to do a woman’s job (only kidding). Swing for the fence. I call it FREE SWINGS, don’t hold back. Get that good hook set. I can’t count how many times I have popped the jig out of the male’s mouth and had the female slurp it up before it even hits the ground!
Now if you are fishing a bed with a spooky female. I would first start with the Matt Lures Bluegill. Cast far past the nest, reel it in, and stop the bait on the nest. Watch for the female. If she doesn’t react, I would change to a jig. Work the jig and let the male play with it. And remember, if the female is on the nest, she will engage the bait if she feels the male cannot take care of the nest. Also, remember to be patient. I have set on fish for 3-4 hours before getting them to bite. The fish know your there, you just have to make them mad enough to bite your bait. I love nothing more then to come up on a bass that someone else was fishing, but eventually gave up on. I can usually get them on my boat deck in a matter of minutes!
When are your chances the greatest? I believe that the first month of spawning is your best bet to catch a monster. The first week of spawn is when I do my best on BIG fish! After that first full moon I will pound the shallows were the sandy flats meet steep drop-offs. Some times you will get those big fish later on, but there is nothing like those first weeks.
Good Luck, Zach Meredith