Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

February 18, 2013

GONE FISHING WITH JERRY MILLER...Locating Staging Areas

JERRY MILLER
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE —             It’s late winter.  We are looking at pre-spawn conditions.  Female bass are gaining weight rapidly as their bodies begin producing and ripening eggs.  The surface temperatures are ranging from 55ºF to about 58ºF.  Big bass are just waiting for a warming trend that will draw them into the shallows.

            Fishermen are already out probing the usual pre-spawn areas hoping to run into staging bass.  One day everything is just right and bass are easy to catch.  The next day you would swear the bass had moved out of state. 

            The bass are still there, but where do you look and what will they bite?  Then you read about how some pro says pre-spawn bass are among the easiest fish to catch and pattern.  They say it’s all about identifying the types of areas they use prior to the spawn.  The problem is that the bass are schooled up in a small area, and finding them is no easy task. 

            It’s general knowledge that the hot spots or staging areas are located somewhere between the spawning flats and their deeper wintering areas.

            Unfortunately, there are no hard, fast rules for when bass move from winter to pre-spawn areas.  In our area bass don’t normally nest until water temperatures reach the mid-60s.

            Just as warming trends lure fish to the shallows, cold fronts bring down the surface temperatures and bass back off to a little deeper water.  Staging areas differ from lake to lake and in various regions around the country.  At Rayburn the key area can be a depression on a flat.  This type of staging area provides the bass a little bit deeper sanctuary than they had on the spawning flats. 

            On Lake Nacogdoches several years ago we accidentally discovered a staging area.  Ron Stacey and I were fishing an east bank just past the hi-line when I spotted bass schooling on top.  When I inspected the area I discovered a small 12’ deep gully just out from the bank.  The bass were stacked in this area like cord wood.  We caught bass for about three hours on Carolina rigs and deep crank baits. 

            About three years ago Frank Lusk and I discovered another staging area on Lake Pinkston . We were fishing near the north end of the lake where we discovered a large group of staging bass out in the middle of the boat run.  This was the last deep water before you got to the spawning flats.

            This area had scattered hydrilla and was about 12 to 14 feet deep.  Lusk caught numerous bass on a Shakey Head.  I caught some of my largest bass on a 3/4 oz. Xcalibur lipless crank bait.  I swam the crank bait near the bottom over the top of the hydrilla.  These bass were feeding heavily prior to the spawn.

            As the pre-spawn season progresses, bass will move to the inside edge of a break line, especially if cover is present, before heading on to the spawning flat.  Once these fish move up to spawn, others will take their place. 

            During stable weather, bass can make a sudden move to the shallows.  Keep your eye on the weather and try to be on the lake when this occurs.

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Jerry Miller can be contacted at: gonefishing2@suddenlink.net