As the days get longer and water temperatures across the United States rise, waves of bass anglers will flock to the bank in search of fish that are looking to spawn. While this is a classic pattern, it is sometimes not the best move because of intense fishing pressure or unstable weather conditions. One way to bi-pass these issues and set yourself apart from the crowd is to consider targeting bass that are staging.
What is a Staging Area?
To get a better idea of how this pattern works, look back at your own traveling habits. Most people have a favorite restaurant/gas station that they habitually stop by on their way to and from any given destination. A staging area for a bass is no different. These areas can basically be any place that they can stop and use to feed before moving to or away from their desired spawning grounds. To help identify these areas, it is important to consider several factors. First, be cognizant of the type of cover the bass in your local lake prefer to stage in. This can be hydrilla, brush, secondary points, etc. By doing this you can oftentimes find a pattern that can be replicated on different areas of the lake. Also, consider depth/deep water access. Nearby creek channel swings and steep drop offs can amplify the number of fish that will use a particular spot for staging.
Types of Staging Areas:
Docks - While it may seem obvious, docks are a great piece of cover for bass to stage. The shade and overhead protection afforded by these pieces of structure make bass feel generally safe and protected. More specifically, bass will utilize individual dock pilings for several things during the spring. Early in the year the dock pilings will absorb sunlight and create a warm surface for fish to sit against which can be key during frigid weather. Later in the spring, shad will spawn on pilings which provides a consistent food source for fish living nearby.
Brush - Isolated brush piles can prove to be an excellent stopping point for fish in different phases of the spawn. Bass will hide in this type of cover and use it as a place to ambush baitfish. To locate these piles of structure it is best to utilize some sort of side imaging sonar. Pay attention to where you find brush piles because anglers who are dropping them in the water will drop them all over the lake in similar depths and points.
Points - These areas can be identified with the naked eye or a contour map of your lake. Bass will use these as a feeding zone as well as a place to suspend. Points with deep water access allow fish to move up and down the water column without having to travel far which saves them time and energy during unstable spring weather conditions. Any sort of isolated rock, hard bottom, or other structure along a point can serve as an excellent place for schools of bass to stage. Another key factor that can affect the way fish will use a point is wind. Most of the time if you can find a point with wind blowing into it there will be bass feeding nearby. This is because the current generated by the wind will push bait fish around and allow bass to ambush them as they swim by.
Roadbeds - Much like dock pilings, roadbeds also absorb heat and provide a place for shad to spawn. Both elements are driving factors that attract pre spawn and post spawn bass. If timed correctly, entire schools of bass will position on this type of structure.
Recommended Baits and Techniques:
Carolina-rig - Tried and true, a Carolina-rig is a great option to drag around points, roadbeds, and brush piles. Our recommended setup includes 20lb fluorocarbon line, a 1 oz ‘Pitch Black’ tungsten weight, #4 ‘Gyro’ Swivel, and a 4/0 Stout wide gap hook. The Nedfry and Clout are both great soft plastics to use on this setup. However, a less known option that is also highly effective is a Flush 5.2 soft plastic jerkbait. The subtle action of this bait imitating an injured baitfish is enough to entice finicky fish into eating.
Provoke - The Provoke 106x jerkbait is a dynamite bait to fish around docks, points, and shallow roadbeds. This bait has a unique ability to draw fish in from long distances. This has proven to be extremely effective for bass that are feeding heavily on baitfish. ‘Chrome Threadfin’, ‘French Bone Pearl’, and ‘Jaint Juice’ are some of our favorite colors for this technique.
Whale - Like the Provoke 106x, this bait also can draw fish in from long distances. With a wide tail kick and exaggerated head wobble, the Whale can be fished at almost any depth depending on how it is rigged. An often-overlooked element associated with this bait is its ability to skip extremely far under docks. Rigged on a 5/0 keel weighted hook, this bait is a great option to catch bass that are targeting baitfish.
Shakey Head- This bait is a more subtle approach to use around staging areas. Simply drag and hop this bait around points, roadbeds, or any type of submerged structure to elicit strikes from bass. Our recommended setup for this technique is a 3/8oz Divine Shakey Head paired with a Divine Shakey Worm 6.3.
Crankbait - A crankbait is one of our favorite lures to fish around staging areas since it allows you to cover so much water and incite reaction strikes from fish that may not be actively feeding. Depending on depth, we recommend the Cloud 9 series of crankbaits for this technique. Some of our favorite colors in this line up are ‘Chartreuse Pro Blue’, ‘Shad Scales’, and ‘Threadfin Shad’.
Be sure to apply this knowledge the next time you get out on the water, you might just put more fish in your live well.
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