I guess in one sense, everything that happens before the male nudges his mate onto the nest is pre-spawn. From the extreme of inactivity in winter to any full moon-driven, shoreward movement from February to June, depending your locale, it’s all pre-spawn. But it’s not a fluid movement, and least in the deeper reservoirs in this part of the country. In fact, it’s full of hesitations.
In generic terms, when bass finally begin to stir with the season (and all the implications that entails) the first part of the pre-spawn is about “staging.” The problem with our deep reservoirs, that staging on points or saddles is sometimes in 45 to 60 feet of water. It doesn’t look much different than pure winter fishing.
But the topography of any body of water defines the route. Sometimes the route is long and deep, while in others its short and steep. And sometimes, if you were look at a topo of various waters, surmising the actual route of bass progression, you probably find that in some parts of the lake it’s composed of elongated structure but interspersed with vertical stretches.
Do bass always take the shortest route? Do they always take the same route? Do they retreat down the same path if cold fronts interrupt the spring? Theoretically, yes. But that reality to us as anglers is not assured since that movement could take place when we’re not there to watch.
What we can best assess is the “right” conditions for some fish to move up are not always “perfect” conditions. We may say that a stretch of four or five days of nicer weather triggered the movement, when in fact, it may have only triggered their activity. Because some fish seem to arrive unannounced and then they don’t leave when things turn nasty.
And while all through the winter/spring we may find abandoned nests that were surely built right under our noses, we’re stuck hunting them deeper. Yet what really happened? From the fishery point of view, there must be some explanation for end of summer hatchlings that are seven inches long and others barely three or four.
Now, I’m just like everyone else. I like the part of the “pre-spawn” where seemingly all the bites are in five to seven feet all the way up to less than a foot. And I suppose, that is coming when won’t have to be as diligent in our search.
But between now and then, the guys who will catch the most are those who don’t worry about the theoretical, but just fish what they see on sonar, observe the water, or learn by casting. It’s all part of intelligence gathering relative what is happening right now.
Which at this time of year, just happens before the spawn.