One of the conditions you will find this spring in your tournament fishing is bedding bass. I'll have to admit that it's one of my stronger suits. If at all possible, I try to find a different pattern in an event I fishing. But that's not always possible. And sometimes it's definitely the best one working on that day.
In my fun fishing and even for guide trips I personally don't like to fish for spawning bass, but morally right or not when it comes to tournament angling I'll do whatever is legal and working the best. Some of the best tricks and methods that, over the years, have worked best for me came from Skeeter National Team members Cody Bird and Ken Smith. Cody hails from Granbury and was the 1998 Everstart Angler of the Year. Ken lives in Dallas, fishes Honey Hole northeast region teams and BASS central invitationals. In the last seven BASS events he's fished he's drawn a check at five of them.
The number one thing you should have is a good pair of polarized sunglasses. Amber is the best color for cloudy days and darker colors work well on sunny days. You can expect to pay at least $70 per pair for good glasses, but you get what you pay for.
Whenever you first move into an area, let it settle down. Have your trolling motor off and after a few minutes look for a wake or other sign of bass cruising the shallows. When the male and female are both on the nest they'll make what I call flashes. What I mean is that you'll see the white of their bellies when they're actually spawning.
If you lose a bass remember where it was and come back later during your tournament to fish the area again. Most of the time you can catch that fish again.
On practice days for your event, cover as much water as possible. The next cove you come to might well have twice as many nests as the last. Carry a pole in your boat that you can use to stick in the bottom under the water and tie up to in open areas. The less noise you make the better and boat movement is included.
To better your chances of not spooking fish, wear dull clothes. Bright colors and white can sometimes spook fish off the nests.
Watch the bass when you throw a bait into the nest. If it spooks easily and takes a long time to come back, move on. But if the fish spooks and comes right back to the nest that's what we call a catchable fish.
On tournament day, don't lose track of time. The most common mistake most anglers make is spending too much time on one fish. On practice days I've actually trained bass to pick up a certain color of lure. What I mean by that is I'll work the nest until the bass picks up the lure every time it's in the nest, but I don't set the hook. Then, on tournament day, I can usually catch that fish on the first cast.
A good locating lure when nests aren't readily visible is a buzzbait. After a strike, look close and you'll usually find the nest.
Another good trick is to mark the nests on practice days so that only you know where they are. In brushy areas, a broken limb here or small insignificant looking-ribbon there will work well. In open areas, push a small twig in the water near the nest, but change how you mark them so you're not doing the work for someone else.
In a draw tournament, you and your partner must decide on how you're going to fish that day. If you can't, then fishing bedding fish is just about impossible. Almost without exception the larger bass are usually the deepest spawners. I caught several big bass only after I accidentally saw their nest while fishing shallower ones.
After you've fished a nest for a while, you will learn there is a sweet spot that really excites the bass guarding it. Figure out that spot and you can certainly catch that fish. Use a lure that's bright and easy to see. Sometimes that's the only way you can tell when the bass actually picks up the lure, especially under windy or cloudy conditions that can really make it disappear.
Hopefully these tricks will help you in your next tournament. See you at the scales. Good luck and God bless.
Bill Wilcox is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Yamaha Outboards, MCMC, BG Products, Pro Rule, Johnson Fiberglass, Brown's Automotive, Continental Batteries, Kistler Rods, Swamp Hog Lures, Strike King Lures, and Fun-n-Sun Sports Center.