1) Get the eyes
You must have polarized sunglasses with optical-quality lenses in amber or green. A full-brim hat prevents light from reflecting off the inside of the lenses.
2) Find spawning cover
Look in these places: the backs of sheltered creeks, coves, and boat canals that receive ample sun; pea gravel in creek arms and coves on the deeper ends of reservoirs; sandy, open spots in vegetation; at the base of stumps and the roots of lily pads; in flooded cover where the bottom is hard.
3) Spot the fish
Zip around spawning areas with your electric motor on high speed while looking for beds and fish. Any bass that darts off its bed as you approach will be hard to catch. One that glides away but returns shortly will be more receptive. The easiest mark is a bass that stays on its bed as you zoom past. Note the position of catchable fish and sneak back within casting range 10 minutes later.
4) Cast blind
When you return, stay out of sight and cast blind to the unsuspecting fish. A 31⁄2-inch Texas-rigged tube with a 1⁄8-ounce sinker fished on spinning tackle and 8-pound-test often draws a strike on the first toss.
If you don’t get results within five minutes, move just close enough to see the bass. This confirms that it’s still there and lets you see how it’s reacting to your lures. Sometimes you’ve got to show a fish several types to find the one that trips its trigger. Come armed with soft-plastic tubes, worms, lizards, and craws in various sizes and colors.
Cast beyond the bed, drag your lure into it, and twitch it without pulling it out. A 1⁄4- to 1⁄2-ounce bullet sinker above a swivel or bead allows for more aggressive twitching, which is maddening to a bass.
7) Twitch and jump
Drag a plastic bait with a 1⁄16- to 1⁄4-ounce sinker to the far edge of the spawning spot and twitch it until the bass starts moving its tail and pectoral fins, a sure sign that it’s irritated. Then suddenly hop the bait into the middle of the bed to spark a reflex strike.
8) Bait and switch
When bass pay little heed to regular baits, twitching a bulky 10-inch soft-plastic swimbait can rouse them. Once the swimbait excites the bass, cast a smaller lure to the fish.
9) Be patient
If a bass won’t stay on the bed with your boat in sight, drop your lure into its center and back away downwind while peeling off line. When you’re far enough away that the fish can’t see you, anchor and wait. Your target will eventually move off with your lure.
10) Let them go
Fishing for bass on beds is a strictly catch-and-release situation. Play them quickly, handle them carefully, and get them back into the water unharmed. You want to do this every spring, don’t you?