Targeting Prespawn Bass in Colorado

One of the best times to fish Colorado’s reservoirs is after ice out when water temperatures have hiked into the mid- to low-50s.
The author displays bass from recent outings.
The author displays bass from recent tournaments throughout the U.S.

When people ask me about how I gained my love for bass fishing, it wasn’t from my experiences fishing professionally and as an amateur at some of the well-known bass lakes across the United States. It was from my fishing experiences right here in my own backyard; places like Chatfield, Pueblo, Quincy and Aurora reservoirs—just to name a few. And one of the best times to fish Colorado’s reservoirs is after ice out when water temperatures have hiked into the mid- to low-50s. For bass, this is the prespawn period. It is also when I catch some of the best fish of my entire season.

Tips for Targeting Prespawn Bass

1. Locating Fish

Navajo Reservoir.
Navajo Reservoir.

In early spring, you are much more likely to catch smallmouth bass than largemouth bass. Largemouths tend to be more lethargic in cold water and can be harder to catch until later in the season. Regardless of the species, the key to catching prespawn bass is knowing how and where to find them.

I typically target three types of structure in order to give myself the best chance for success. First, when I’m fishing a reservoir that I don’t know very well I try to concentrate on “secondary points.” These are points, rocks or sand outcroppings that are located in creek arms, coves and bays. Secondary points are critical because smallmouth and largemouth bass use these spots as transition zones from deeper water as they work their way back into creeks, inlets and shallow areas to spawn.

The second thing that I look for is deep water adjacent to the shallow areas where I’m fishing. Bass are more sluggish this time of year and want to be close to deep water if the weather or water conditions change suddenly. Third, it’s important to key in on spots that have varying rock sizes along the shore and bottom. As a cardinal rule, I always fish some kind of rocky structure for prespawn fish. Rocks hold heat and tend to attract more fish in cold-water conditions.

Although shore anglers can have some success fishing rocky banks this time of year, a boat equipped with a good fish finder and sonar is a must to locate areas holding fish. Lake-bottom contour maps are also available for most large reservoirs and are a great tool to help anglers find points, rocks and other structure.

2. Lure Selection

A Vision Oneten Jerk bait. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
A Megabass Vision Oneten Jerk bait. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.

Jerk Baits

Another benefit to fishing in early spring is that bait choices are quite simple. During the prespawn period, you only need to imitate one form of forage: bait fish. One of my favorite lures to mimic baitfish are jerk baits. Jerk baits have become my go-to lure in Colorado because of their versatility. You can fish them by giving strong jerks on the rod in order to imitate a dying or wounded baitfish. The key to fishing with jerk baits is to let the lure pause or rest every few seconds to allow fish to catch the lure. Here in Colorado, my favorite jerk-bait colors are “Sexy Shad,” translucent and white or bone. Because some prespawn fish will swipe at the jerk bait but not take it completely, I like to swap out and upgrade my treble hooks. I recommend using Trokar (Eagle Claw) treble hooks on all of your jerk baits. With these hooks, you will see a significant increase in the number of hook-sets and fish landed.

Although pricey, Vision Oneten jerk baits are excellent choices. Their side to side action keeps them in a fish's strike zone. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
Although a bit more expensive than other lures, the Megabass Vision Oneten jerk baits are excellent choices for Colorado waters. The lure’s side to side action helps keep it in a fish’s strike zone. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
A Keitech swim bait with a 3/8 ounce hook. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
A Keitech swim bait with a Trokar Saltwater Series 3/8 ounce hook. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.

Tube Jigs & Swim Baits

Tube jigs and swim baits are also excellent choices for prespawn fish. Similar to jerk baits, white-colored tube jigs and swim baits can mimic dying baitfish. In early spring, I drag jigs and swim baits on the bottom. This forces me to slow down my retrieve in order to give sluggish, early season bass the opportunity to take the bait. As water temperatures continue to rise and fish become more active in late spring and early summer, I incorporate a jigging motion to entice more aggressive strikes. I also use green, pumpkin or brown-colored jigs later in the season once crayfish become a more prevalent food source.

Following these tips will help you catch more bass and have more fun fishing in early spring. For ideas of where you can fish for bass in Colorado, check out Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Fishing Atlas. Also check out these stories on Colorado Outdoors Online.

Story written by Christopher Sabina. Sabina is a former web design and communications temp at Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He is also an avid angler who fishes competitively on the BFL Tournament Circuit and is a member of Eagle Claw’s (Wright & McGill) pro staff.

7 Responses

  1. Great article, I have only fly fished out here but I am getting back into spin fishing and this has got me excited to get out there. One question, how do you dead drift jigs?

  2. Dan, thanks for reading. The term “dead drift” simply means to let the jig or bait move naturally in the current with little or no influence from the rod or reel. I just switched the text to read “drag bottom.” Hopefully that makes things a bit clearer. As water temps warm and fish become more active later in the season, more action is added by applying a jigging motion with the rod.

  3. Longtime tournament fishing in nor cal, now retiring near my son in Brighton, I’m going to be there for this spring, I need my bass fix, I didn’t think there was any hope, I feel better now knowing there are some quality bass water, all information would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Ron, Thanks for reading and welcome to Colorado. Let us know if you have any questions about bass fishing in CO. We’d be happy to help in any way that we can. Be sure to search this blog for stories about St. Vrain State Park. This is a new area that CPW will manage to provide anglers with a trophy bass fishery in the upcoming years.

  4. My 11 year-old son and I are new to fishing, well actually, I fished a bit when I was his age, but we are definitely hooked on our new passion! We have taken a keen liking to bass fishing, as it is not the most popular fish story you hear about in Colorado. Thank you for the article, the information has given us some better ideas to try for our Colorado fishing forays. Most things we have read and watched on bass fishing applies to the southern states. So this was great information for the beginners!

    We look forward to reading more about learning about bass fishing in Colorado!

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