When B.A.S.S. Elite Series pro angler Pete Ponds is asked the best way to approach the final stages of the pre-spawn, his answer usually gets funny reactions.
“I like to start in and work out, which means I get on in to the shallow spawning area and I fish my way out,” said Ponds, of Madison. “I know that’s the opposite of how most fishermen do it, but that is how you need to approach it, especially in the final stages of the pre-spawn.
“I’ll go in and look in spawning areas for the clearest shallow water I can find, and that’s relative to each lake. I will look for fish and signs of fish, and what I expect to find is male buck bass. Everyone knows they go in first and even if we get a freak cold front, they won’t go far.”
Ponds knows that if the males are in there without females they will be aggressive and will hit things like a swimming lizard.
“I say the lizard because that’s something we all did for years and still do on Barnett Reservoir, which is where I grew up fishing,” he said. “If I start catching the buck bass and I want bigger fish, and I usually do, then I start moving out to deeper water and it’s extremely important that I fish my way out. Female bass will move up in stages.
“You may find some in 3 feet, 4 feet, 5 feet or even 6 feet, and maybe some in all of those depths. Take the time to fish it all, and fish it thoroughly and I bet that eventually you are going to hit a depth that is holding the most numbers of quality fish.”
Ponds switches to different lures as he moves out, and his No. 1 choice is always a swimming jig.
“The last few years, I have found that the swimming jig just attracts bigger bites,” he said. “But in the right conditions, warming water and overcast skies, a small 1/4-ounce black or white buzzbait is killer. And there are times in murky water that you can’t beat a spinnerbait with a single, large, gold Colorado blade, about the size of a half dollar ... you know, what some people call thumper blades.”
Vegetation plays a big factor in Ponds’ search for the bigger females.
“You have to look at the area, the whole area as a single picture,” he said. “You look for things like lily pads and then identify areas in the pads where they are sparse, which would indicate either a change in the bottom or a change in depth. Those are key areas bass will use.
“I also look for other vegetation, like primrose and alligator weed, but anything really, because anywhere you see a change in vegetation is usually a spot where the bottom changes, like from sandy to muddy. Fish really relate to those changes. It is a good junction point for fish.”
One final tip Ponds offers, especially when in the shallower depths.
“Be quiet,” he said. “Use a push pole instead of a trolling motor and when you push into an area, stop, let it settle and then work it 360 degrees and then push into a new area and repeat.
“And one thing you will see all the pros do when they get in a shallow area around bedding or pre-spawn bass, they will turn off their sonar to get rid of the clicking noise. Fish can here that and on heavily pressured lakes they start relating that noise to danger.”