When bass come off their spawning beds, they can be fickle, but they can still be caught. This bass pro has some ideas on the subject.
Brock Mosley had cast a swim jig across a shallow flat, was working it through the pads stems, and …
The retrieve came to an abrupt stop when a lunker bass crushed the jig and bore down like a nuclear sub cruising through the vegetation.
Mosley, a Bassmaster Elite Series Angler from Collinsville, snapped his rod back and promptly stopped the bass in its path. This fish was no match for the skilled angler and his Spiralite rod, and Mosley quickly pried the bass from the water.
Mosley credited finding an area with a shad spawn for producing this bass, and others like in during the post spawn, a time when most anglers struggle to figure out the pattern.
“During April, we might have some bass spawning throughout the month and then there will be others who are post spawn and are resting up,” he said. “Later they’ll feed aggressively as they try to replenish their strength after going through the spawning process.
“On Ross Barnett or Okatibbee, I try to get on the lake at the crack of dawn and look for the white birds. They’ll tell you where the shad are spawning. That’s a key way to find the spawning areas.”
Shad spawns provide an easy meal for ravenous bass trying to gorge themselves after going through the rigors of the spawn. Simply put, find the shad spawn and find the bass.
Pays to be versatile
April’s post spawn fishing is a time when anglers need to be versatile, ready to react to different patterns.
“Sometimes you go for quantity and I ask myself, ‘how I can catch a limit?’” Mosley said. “When the water is colder, you just can’t fish fast no matter how fast you like to fish. If the water is below 50 degrees, the bass are not aggressive and chasing lures.”
That’s when Mosley slows down and works more deliberately, and, after finding bass, he lets the fish dictate what to throw, how fast to work it and how much water to cover.
“The shad spawns only last an hour or two after the crack of dawn, but they provide a great early morning bite,” Mosley said. “After I find an area where the shad are spawning I’ll throw a Pop-R, walking bait, chatter bait or a white swim jig with a Net Bait Paca Slim, until I determine what they want.”
Normally pro anglers want to cover as much water as possible and catch the active bass, but Mosley never goes into an event locked down on one technique. Being open minded and versatile allows him to stay in tune with the fish and adjust in real time, not after the fact.
“I think the younger anglers have grown up learning so many different techniques and become very versatile and that gives us a competitive advantage in the tournaments,” said Mosley. “If you only master one or two fishing techniques then you’re going to miss some real good opportunities. You’ve got to be versatile to be successful on the Elite Tour.
“Sometimes we fish to win, and sometimes we fish for a limit of bass to get points. If I’m fishing for a limit I’ll try to catch as many as I can and then look for big fish. But if I’m fishing to win I’ll concentrate on catching quality bass if I can find a pattern or area that has them.”
That’s what worked for Mosley at a 2017 Elite tournament at Lake St. Clair in Michigan.
“If there’s good quality fish in an area where the shad are spawning I’ll work the area back and forth as long as I’m catching those fish,” he said. “At Lake St. Clair last year I found a pattern that produced good quality bass, so I stayed with that. I averaged catching about nine bass a day, but those quality bass enabled me to catch 86 pounds over four days and finish in second place.”
If you’re fishing for fun you can decide if you want to target big bass, or numbers of bass, but you must be able to fish several different lures in different situations.
“I’ll have several rods rigged up so that I can find out what they want without wasting time changing lures,” Mosley said. “I’ll fish a swim bait on a 7-foot-2 Spiralite rod, which is a very versatile rod. I’ll also have a spinnerbait tied on, a chatterbait and a white Spro-frog.”
Mosley searches for the bass until he finds out what they want and then hones in on the bass with one lure if it’s working. He’s quick to change gears if things slow down or fish quit biting.
“Usually after the spawn is over there will be some lily pads growing by late April and I’ll start out with a few frogs and see if they’re in the pads and active,” Mosley said. “If they are hitting the frog then you can really have fun catching quality bass.”
Lipless crankbaits, like a Rat-L-Trap, are also shad imitators and a preferred lure for Mosley and post-spawn bass.
“When it’s cold, I’ll work the ’Trap like a worm, and as the water warms I’ll yo-yo it,” he said. “During the early spring, I’ll burn it and get reaction bites, too. There’s really not a bad way to fish a ’Trap if you have shad in the lake.”
Mosley prefers fishing the craw color in the early spring and a chrome blue back year-round.
“Another of my favorite search baits is a buzzbait,” Mosley said. “I’ll use a 7-foot Spiralite cranking rod and it allows the fish to get the bait so that you can get a solid hookset.”
Not only is a buzzbait a good search bait, it’s also a great big bass lure and Mosley has caught his share of lunkers with the lure.
Punching through post-spawn funk
Bass are not always active immediately after the spawn, especially the bigger females.
“A lot of times the bass will be in a post spawn funk and they’ll back off and rest,” Mosley said. “When they’re ready to feed again they’ll be fun to catch on the offshore ledges, but until then it can be tough. Last year during the Elite Series tournament on Barnett, they were done spawning but not offshore yet, so it was tough.”
Mosley went to something he had confidence in and that was a punching rig.
“I want to use the smallest punching rig I can get by with like a 1-ounce rig, in a dark color like black and blue, something in my comfort zone that I have confidence in,” he said. “When the chips are down on Barnett that punching rig can make a big difference.”
Mosley just missed out on the Classic last year but was on a roll near the end of the Elite Series Tour. The talented angler finished second to arguably the greatest tournament bass angler of all time, Kevin Van Dam, at the St. Lawrence River by consistently catching lunker smallmouths each day. His total weight for that tournament was 82 pounds, 3 ounces.
Mosley was relaxed and showed his offshore smallmouth fishing prowess at Lake St. Clair also, while staying in contention from start to finish. Mosley caught a limit of bass each day and led after the second day of competition with a 5-fish limit of smallmouth’s weighing 25 pounds 5 ounces, before finishing runner-up to another well-known Elite angler, Jason Christie.
So how did a shallow-water fishing expert from Mississippi become an accomplished open water smallmouth master?
“The best thing I did was fish the Northern Opens in 2014,” Mosley said. “All of the lakes are different, but at St. Clair the smallmouths related to the grass lines in 16 to 17 feet of water. On the St. Lawrence River they related to wood cover, so I just took advantage of what I’d learned earlier about the lakes and fish up there.”
Practice and valuable experience gained at Pickwick Lake and on the tour, along with his natural ability, has well prepared the accomplished angler. It didn’t hurt that he’d grown up fishing competitively with his father Danny Mosley, against some of the nation’s best bass anglers at home. The father and son duo are a threat to win any tournament that they enter.
Pickwick is a training ground for Mississippi anglers wanting to gain some experience chasing and catching the wily smallies. They’re fun to catch and about the meanest fish you’ll tangle with in our state for sure.
Mosley targets smallmouths on a Spiralite Defiant SDS72MF 7-foot-2 rod and Ardent Apex Elite spinning reel with 15-pound Seaguar line, drop-shotting a Net Bait contour worm with a ¼-ounce weight.
If you’re looking to catch a smallmouth bass after the spawn in Mississippi then head to Pickwick Lake and hit the ledges, submerged points and drops.
Pro tip: Light the deck
Mosley’s Phoenix boat is outfitted by Tricked Out Marine, which installed LED lighting that has become invaluable to him during early morning tournaments and fishing outings. “The LED lighting has really helped me get my gear and equipment situated before daylight,” Mosley said. “The lighting is bright enough to see what you’re doing to get ready for the day.”