Most avid bass anglers will agree that largemouth bass are more difficult to catch during the post spawn than any other time of the year. The post spawn has caused many seasoned fishermen to question their ability to locate and catch bass.

During this period it seems like the fish have gone into hibernation. And what makes matters worse is that the fishing was great just a few weeks earlier when the bass were in the shallows.

Gaining a thorough knowledge of the three stages of bass spawning is the key to unlocking the mystery behind the difficulty in catching bass during the dreaded post spawn.

The first thing an angler needs to understand about the spawn is that not all bass spawn at the same time. Given this premise that bass have their own individual biological clocks can help cure the blues associated with fishing for post-spawn bass.

In general, bass begin spawning when the water temperature reaches 65 degrees. The egg-laden females move onto the beds as the water temperature warms to between 67-68 degrees. Once the water temperature reaches 80 degrees, spawning activity ceases.

There are several factors that determine when a specific body of water will reach these magical temperatures. According to Keith Mills, fisheries biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, there is at least a month difference in the timing of the bass spawn from south to north Mississippi.

While the spawn may be peaking in mid-March in small lakes in southern Mississippi, spawning in the large reservoirs of north Mississippi won't usually occur until mid to late April, and can last into May.

On any given lake, especially when it comes to larger impoundments, bass spawn at different times in specific locations of the lake.

Beginning in the upper end of the lake, bass will start the first wave of their spawn on the northwest side of the lake and coves. The spawn, like a giant wave, will slowly make its way down the lake to the lower end over a period of several weeks.

Water temperature is critical to ensure that eggs deposited by the female remain warm enough to hatch. The upper reaches of the lake will warm the quickest, while the lower end will be the last area of the lake to warm enough for spawning to take place.

"Largemouth bass spawn in approximately a 6-week period," says Mills. "During that time, you will have fish that are pre-spawn, spawn and post spawn in the same body of water."

Females utilize the same areas to stage prior to the spawn as they do to recuperate following the spawn. These locations are most likely to be secondary points off a creek channel that leads to a protected spawning area.

The biggest difference in a pre-spawn and post spawn female bass is activity level. Post-spawn females are physically spent from the spawning process, and will not expend much energy chasing baitfish. However, their male counterparts have a tendency to cruise the shallows and actively feed on vulnerable forage before making their way to their summer homes.

Anglers who are willing to be mobile will experience greater success during this period. If you are encountering post-spawn activity in one area of the lake, move to another area that might still be in pre-spawn or spawn.

Mills says he knows a few avid bass anglers who will go so far as to follow the bass spawn from one lake to another as it progresses from south to north Mississippi. He feels this is one of the best methods to avoid the negative aspects of the post spawn altogether.

Other anglers like Lendell Martin believe the main reason for post-spawn bass being more difficult to catch is a combination of springtime fishing pressure and the average angler's reluctance to change tactics when the conventional ones fail to work. Bass that have been hooked in the mouth a couple of times by a spinnerbait and seen every popular springtime lure a thousand times over the past few months aren't going to be easy to fool.

"I'm convinced that fishing pressure plays the biggest role in why the fishing gets tough during the post spawn," said Martin, an FLW/EverStart bass pro and former fishing guide. "There are lots of anglers on the water during March and April, and all that pressure eventually takes its toll. The fish begin to wise up. The same thing happens in big tournaments, no matter what time of year it is. Weights usually drop progressively each day - mainly because of the pressure."

In most cases, anglers can increase their success during the post spawn by switching to lures that the fish haven't seen, or by changing the speed or method of their retrieves. While the old springtime favorites like Rat-L-Traps, soft-plastic lizards or worms and spinnerbaits may continue to produce post-spawn strikes, other lures might work a whole lot better. Zara Spooks, buzz baits, plastic stickbaits and plastic frogs are worth trying when bass get bait-shy in the post spawn.

Selecting the top post-spawn bass lakes in the Magnolia State is no easy task. Fortunately, Mississippi bass anglers won't have to look too hard, since excellent bass fisheries can be found all across the Magnolia State. Besides, a good bass lake is a good bass lake, whether it's during the post spawn or not.

That being said, we will break the top Mississippi post spawn bass lakes into three categories: small lakes, reservoirs and oxbows.

Small lakes

Because of their size, the multitudes of small impoundments that can be found across the state are excellent choices for post-spawn bass. While all of them can produce great fishing, some are more productive than others.

Lake Calling Panther, a 500-acre lake located just west of Crystal Springs in Copiah County, is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the state's top bass lakes. Opened to fishing in March 2006, this state-operated lake has already produced some lunker largemouths. In fact, many believe the next state-record largemouth is likely to come from this superb bass fishery.

But like any new bass lake in Mississippi, be prepared for lots of competition from bass anglers wanting to give this lake a try.

Another small lake in central Mississippi that has very good bass fishing is Roosevelt State Park's Shadow Lake. Located just off Interstate 20 near Morton, Shadow Lake was stocked with Florida-strain bass in 2001.

Opened to fishing in 2004, this small lake has begun to produce some bass in the 6- to 8-pound range. Because of its small size, Shadow Lake doesn't get quite as much fishing pressure as some of the more popular bass lakes in the state. This makes it even more attractive as a lake to try during the post-spawn period.

A bit farther to the north near Tupelo, you will find Trace State Park. This 600-acre lake is one of the most notable bass fishing holes in northeast Mississippi.

"The biggest attraction to Trace is that you know you're going to catch fish when you go," said fisheries biologist Larry Park with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "It's a really nice bass lake. Although it isn't outstanding, it does seem to provide quality action consistently."

With 10 small state lakes in the area, a few National Forest lakes, a couple of state parks, a half-dozen pools on the Tenn-Tom Waterway and Lake Pickwick to choose from, Trace Lake doesn't receive excessive fishing pressure - a bonus for post-spawn anglers.

Reservoirs

Ross Barnett Reservoir, located just northeast of Jackson, is one of the Magnolia State's most popular bass lakes. This 33,000-acre giant boasts over 100 miles of shoreline and abundant cover. Formed from the damming of the Pearl River, Ross Barnett Reservoir offers every type of structure and vegetation imaginable.

"Ross Barnett Reservoir keeps getting better and better as a bass fishery," said Bubba Hubbard, assistant director of fisheries with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "And with the diversity of habitat available, bass opportunities should only get better even with the amount of tournament pressure the lake receives annually."

Although the Pelahatchie Bay area is the most popular for trophy-sized bass, a number of lunker largemouth are being caught on a regular basis on the upper Pearl River around the Cane Creek backwaters. According to Hubbard, anglers should focus on the river and creek channels during the post spawn. Following the spawn, fish move out to the channel ledges before they begin to form the big schools for which Ross Barnett Reservoir is so well known.

Of the four north Mississippi U.S. Army Corps of Engineers watershed reservoirs, only two are really good bets for the post spawn - Enid and Arkabutla.

Sardis is the worst post-spawn lake because of the heavy fishing pressure it receives each spring during the St. Jude Tournament. And keep in mind that all the big reservoirs in the Magnolia State will have a later spawn than the smaller lakes because it takes them longer to warm up.

Oxbows

There is no way to write a story about bass fishing opportunities in Mississippi without including the myriad of Mississippi River oxbows.

In the spring the quality of the bass fishing at any of the Magnolia State's many oxbows is surpassed only by their beautiful scenery. Watching the orange glow of the morning sun as it climbs above the moss-laden cypress trees along the shoreline of these ancient lakes would make the trip worthwhile even if the fishing were not so fantastic.

Starting in north Mississippi, Flower Lake is always an excellent bass fishery, and for good reason. This 1,000-acre oxbow is connected to Tunica Cutoff, and consistently produces good catches of bass. Chock-full of flooded cypress and an abundance of lotus and lily pad fields, Flower Lake has plenty of structure for even the most discriminating bass angler.

But surprisingly, this old oxbow with its crystal-clear water is one of the Magnolia State's most overlooked bass lakes. Receiving very little fishing pressure makes Flower Lake a top pick for post-spawn bass action. The bass move into the flooded timber and vegetation fields, making spinnerbaits, buzz baits and jig-and-pig combos your lures of choice.

"Fish don't go deep here after the spawn like they do on a big reservoir," said Keith Mills, fisheries biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. "Flower Lake is shallow, so the bass can't go deep, but it has plenty of shade, which is an excellent substitute for deep water."

Farther to the south, you will find a trio of oxbows just north of Vicksburg that post-spawn fishermen certainly don't want to overlook. The connected lakes of Albermarle and Chotard are usually best after the Big River falls in late spring. Being connected to the Mississippi River, the spawn on these two lakes is closely tied to the river stage. The cooler river water can delay the spawn in these lakes by as much as a month.

One of the unique features of the two oxbows is that they are connected by a narrow channel. Since Chotard is connected to the river, a fall in the river stage results in water being pulled out of Albermarle through this channel and into Chotard. Post-spawn bass will congregate at both ends of the channel to feast on the shad that are attracted to the current. As with any river-connected oxbow, your best bet is to watch the nearest river gauge. Anytime you see a slow fall, load your boat and head for the lake.

The third member of the "Vicksburg Trinity" is Eagle Lake. No longer connected to the Big River, the water level remains constant and the bass spawn earlier. The biggest concentration of post-spawn bass can be found on the shallow side of the lake and on the end past Garfield's Landing.

A proven pattern is to work the isolated cypress trees on the outside edges of Australia Island by flipping a jig or worm, or even skipping a spinnerbait under the low-hanging cypress limbs. Another option is to work the lily pad fields past Garfield's Landing with a frog, a spinnerbait or a buzz bait.

Fishing the post spawn may not be the most productive when it comes to catching bass, but good stringers of fish can still be caught. While they are in their post-spawn pattern, you must work a little harder on your fishing strategy and lure presentation to get a strike out of these very catchable fish.

One thing is for certain: You won't catch them if you don't get your lures wet.