How the Bass Spawn Works

By: Vivien Bullen
Blue Rockfishes (Sebastes mystinus) in a Kelp Forest, Point Lobos, California, USA.
David Wrobel/Visuals Unlimited/Getty Images

When it's time to spawn, bass mean ­business. As a rule, they don't waste a lot time. In fact, the entire spawning process, which involves building a nest, finding a mate, hatching fertilized eggs and guarding young fish until they are ready to be on their own, can take a little as three weeks.

When winter ends and the water warms back up, bass feel the urge to spawn. At this time, male fish will find a suitable nesting area and prepare it for mating. Then the male bass circles the humble home slowly and waits for a mate. When a female has chosen to join the male in the nest, they waste little time getting to know one another.


The mating process begins with the two bass swimming right next to each other around the nest. While swimming, the bass are tilted on their sides with their vents closed. Simultaneously, they release their respective eggs or sperm into the nest. With the female's role in this spawning over, she's free to leave the spawning area or mate with a new fish.

The male bass is responsible for watching over his school of offspring. He'll stay close and protect the eggs from harm until they hatch a few days later. After hatching, the young spawn will spend about two weeks growing and learning what to eat. Then they'll disperse and leave the male free to mate again or head to warmer waters [source: Davis].

Read on to find out exactly when and where the magic happens.



When Bass Spawn

­Ah, sprin­gtime. The trees are in bloom. The birds are singing. Love is in the air.

Scratch that -- love is in the water.


Like many species, the end of winter means it's time to mate. A fish is able to spawn after they've reached one year in age (they don't waste a lot of time) and exceeded 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) in length [source: Davis].

When the water consistently reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 degrees Celsius), the male bass will move toward spawning ground. Most of the spawn will occur in the spring months -- April, May and even early June -- but are bass such a widespread species that location plays a large role, too. In the southern half of the northern hemisphere, spawning will occur earlier because of the warmer waters. So perhaps it's better to understand the ideal temperatures for spawning to occur.

The ideal water temperature for the bass spawn is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 and 23.9 degrees Celsius). If the water temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 degrees Celsius), the current spawn will be in jeopardy. When the water cools below this point, the male will abandon the nest in search of warmer waters. If left alone, the eggs will likely fall prey to any number of predators and never hatch. Even if an aquatic neighbor doesn't eat them, the spawn won't be protected from harmful debris or other disturbances that the male bass would have fended off.

Read ahead to see what kind of prime real estate bass search for before they mate.


Where the Bass Spawn

­Because bass are so abund­ant, their choice of spawning grounds is quite basic.

Water temperature is important for the spawn. It makes sense then, that the bass would go to shallow waters to prepare their nests. For the most part, nests will accumulate at depths of 1 to 4 feet (0.3 to 1.2 meters). But in clear water, bass have been known to nest as deep as 20 feet (6.1 meters) [source: Davis]. The farther down the nest, the less likely is it that waves or boats will interfere with the spawn, and the eggs will have a more stable environment. Unfortunately for the bass, this is only possible in clear waters, when the sun can reach more impressive depths. The sun's warmth is needed to keep the fertilized eggs incubated [source: Canning].


Come spring, the male bass will swim to warm, shallow waters. There he will seek out a clear area with a hard surface. Bass prefer rough bottoms -- such as gravel or rocks -- but in sandy areas they have no other choice [source: Canning]. Once he has found an area that will accommodate the spawn, the male bass uses his tail to clean the nest. Then he clears a circular area with a diameter that is two times the length of his body [source: Davis]. After he's constructed the nest, he'll begin to circle his territory in search of a mate.

Understanding where and when the bass spawn occurs is helpful to any determined fisherman. Read on to understand the best methods for reeling in great spawn-time catch.


Bass Fishing During the Spawn

Fishin­g during the bass spawn can be tricky. While the bass have moved to shallow waters -- making them easy to find -- they aren't eating. Getting the bass to take the bait is that much more difficult [source: Dodson].

To hook a nesting bass, take a logical approach. The fasting males won't be tempted away from their instinctive duties by a typically popular lure. So what would get the male to bite? He's just spent a great deal of time clearing away a nest. His main duty for the next three weeks is to keep that home clean and safe. Naturally, he'll be more likely to respond to bait out of defense [source: Canning].


The technique used for fishing during the spawn is often referred to as "Sight Fishing." With the bass in shallow waters, you can locate them simply by walking carefully near the edge of the water and looking for their clean, dug out nests. But just as you can see them, they can see you. So it's best to look for the nests and then watch for their shadows so as not to scare the fish away [source: Canning].

After locating a nest, remember that patience is important. Bass are smart fish, and they often learn to recognize lures and bait [source: Take Me Fishing]. You may need to try different lures in different spots around the nest to grab their attention. Anglers should consider using bright lures with contrasting bottoms.



Lots More Information

Relat­ed HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Canning, Tom. "Tackling the Bass Spawn." Bass Pro Shops. Accessed 11/16/08
  • Davis, James T., and Joe. T. Lock. "Largemouth Bass Biology and History" Southern Regional Aquaculture Center. August 1997. Accessed 11/14/08.
  • Dodson, Ronald F. "Post-Spawn Fishing." Bass Fishing Resource Guide. Accessed 11/16/08
  • Dunn's Fish Farm. "Bass Spawning, Habits & Disease Control" May 2004. Accessed 11/16/08
  • Merck. "Internal Genital Organs." Accessed 11/16/08
  • Noble, Nate. "Inside the Spawn" Ultimate Bass. February 2005. Accessed 11/14/08.
  • Take Me Fishing. "Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides" Accessed 11/16/08