Chris Johnston’s spawning cycle hard baits

One thing is predictable in the unpredictable world of the spawning cycle. Prespawn and postspawn bass are on the move. Prespawners move from deep to shallow water, and they backtrack those same routes in postspawn.
That means moving baits are essential to intercepting bass as they transition to and from the spawning beds. That also makes lipped (and lipless) crankbaits the ideal weapons of choice for the intercept work. Chris Johnston is a believer in keeping a well-stocked box of baits capable of eliciting reaction strikes as the bass have one thing on their mind as their biological clocks tick toward the reproduction cycle. 
“You can cover water with crankbaits, and these staples will cover all the bases,” Johnston said. The Bassmaster Elite pro created this box specifically for this gallery, so you can stock up and make the most of that favored time of bass fishing. There are lipless crankbaits for covering vegetation, and squarebills for deflecting off shallow water rest stops and transition areas. 
SPRO Outsider SR55 (Gizzard Shad)
Designed by fellow Elite John Crews, with the Johnston brothers, this unique design features an innovative design with the weight on the outside of the bait. Doing so allows for longer casts in a smaller profile lure. Visual enhancements add a lifelike appearance, with gill rakers, mandibles and SPRO’s Mean Eyes. Rigged with Gamakatsu hooks. Length: 2.17 inches. Weight: 3/8 ounce. 
“What I really like is the silent action, so you can get more bites with pressured bass with the more subtle action, and especially in clear water,” Johnston said. 
SPRO Wameku Shad (Crawfish Gold)
What makes it stand out are top-mounted, adjacent forward and rear line ties for two distinctly different presentations in the same lure. The lure runs true in shallow water with the forward line tie, while it runs deeper when switched to the rear line tie. A high-pitch knocking sound makes it unique for lures in the category. Length: 2.75 inches. Weight: 3/4 ounce. 
“It looks like a standard lipless crankbait, but with a different action that is best for pressured bass that you encounter during spring,” Johnston said. “It’s going to be a prespawn, cold-water bait, and the red is the staple color for those conditions.” Note the twin line ties for modifying the action and depth.
SPRO Fat Pappa SB 55 Squarebill (Delta Craw)
An all-terrain, shallow diving squarebill is the result of this variation of the original Fat Papa crankbait. The balsa bait style action adds buoyancy, allowing it to float above and through wood cover in an injection-mold constructed lure. The circuit board construction adds a tight wobbling action for added deflection off cover. Length: 2.17 inches. Weight: 1/2 inches. “What I really like about this bait is you can fish it through and over wood and rock cover, which adds more versatility to the prespawn and postspawn baits in this box,” Johnston said. For the shad spawn period, Johnston switches to those patterns, targeting points and other areas. 
SPRO Fat John 60 (Spring Craw)
This upsized version of the Little John, is Crews’ namesake squarebill with a wider action. The line tie is at a different angle, body and bill shape, which results in a more outward wobble for added strike appeal. Long casts are an asset with the tungsten weight transfer system. Length: 2 1/3 inches. Weight: 5/8 ounce. 
“This another squarebill choice when you need a bigger profile to match the forage,” Johnston said. “The flat-side design makes it run tighter in colder water, which is preferred in those prespawn conditions.”
SPRO Aruku Shad 85 (Gold Black)
The angled nose is designed specifically for fishing through aquatic vegetation as a weedless, lipless crankbait, making it ideal for covering territory during prespawn. Loud rattles add strike appeal for grabbing the attention of bass on the move. Length: 3 3/8 inches. Weight: 1 ounce. “This is the bigger version of the Aruku in a bigger profile bait that I like for retrieving over submerged vegetation, when the bass are using it as an ambush point to feed,” Johnston said. He keeps it tied on when bass are in the “postspawn funk” for a solid reaction strike. 
A tacklebox full of great options for fishing before, during and after the bass spawn.