Four stages of the spawn

Terry Scroggins
Gary Tramontina

Florida bass fishermen learn to bed fish out of necessity, as did Elite Series pro Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla. Bass here begin making beds in January, and you can catch spawners on and off for the next six months. If you can't catch bass during the spawn in Florida, don't waste your money fishing bass tournaments here.

Scroggins was a dominating tournament fisherman in Florida before he embarked on his pro career, which includes five Bassmaster victories (four in Florida) and nine trips to the Bassmaster Classic. Much of his success stems from his ability to find and catch spawning bass.

For many anglers, fishing the spawn is singular in meaning: casting to bedding bass. Scroggins does this, too, but it's only one of his many tactics. He breaks the spawning cycle into four stages, and fishes each one differently.

Pay close attention, because what you're about to learn from Scroggins will vastly improve your success during all stages of the spawn.

Stage 1: When the bucks move up

In Florida, the bucks first move up onto the beds when the water temperature warms to 58 degrees or more, claims Scroggins. They make beds only 12 to 18 inches deep because the warmest water is in the extreme shallows. The bass spawn deeper as the water continually heats up.

"You'll see bucks on the beds four or five days before the females show up," Scroggins says. "The females are in the same general area, cruising around."

To catch the big females, Scroggins fancasts a white, double-bladed 3/8-ounce Booyah Bi-You Buzz buzzbait over submerged hydrilla, eelgrass or peppergrass near the beds. If bass refuse the buzzbait, he swims a Texas rigged 6-inch lizard or 7 1/2-inch ribbontail worm over the grass. He matches these baits with a straight shank 4/0 Owner hook and a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce bullet sinker. Scroggins makes a long cast over the grass with a 7-foot medium-heavy baitcasting rod and a Daiwa reel loaded with 16-pound Gamma fluorocarbon line, and then holds the rod tip at 10 o'clock and maintains a steady retrieve. The bait bounces through the grass and goads strikes.

"A lot of times the bait runs over a bed you don't see," Scroggins says. "That's a great way to catch a big female.

"You also catch a lot of bucks doing this."

Should swimming a lizard or worm fail to catch the females, Scroggins fishes ledges just outside the spawning area with a Carolina rigged 6-inch lizard (with a 1-ounce weight). These ledges are typically hard bottoms 3 to 5 feet deep that drop into 10 feet of water. Scroggins often finds such spots along the outside edges of grassbeds.

The heavy sinker helps him cast farther and feel the bottom. When the sinker taps shells or rocks, Scroggins slows down with short pulls and long pauses.