When he isn’t fishing a tournament or prefishing for one, Marty spends his spare time fishing for fun on the lakes in his home state of Arizona. These lakes experience an early prespawn because most of them are located in the desert. “Fish are moving during prespawn,” says Marty, “and if there is water coming in, it will slow them down because that incoming water is usually cold.” He likes the fishing better before the fish get on the beds, and he focuses on secondary structure like boulders and rocky points just on the outside of coves. “The fish will be on those areas eating craws,” he says. He targets areas from the main points to the first or second little point in toward the back of the cove, then moves on. Jigs and Senkos are his primary weapons, and he doesn’t waste time.
“There will still be a lot of fish on those main, outside points,” he says, “but the majority of the females will be heading toward the backs of the coves. As the spawn gets closer he uses things like Chatterbaits and crankbaits more often, or he’ll slow-roll a spinnerbait shallow out to about ten feet or so. He starts at the bank and works his way out deeper to where they’ll be staging. With a spinnerbait, Marty likes to throw it out and reel it back slow and easy, giving the fish plenty of time to see the bait and react. The bite feels like someone cut the line – you’ll be feeling the blades going, then nothing. If the vibration changes at all, set the hook.
What Marty likes about jigs is that no matter what the fish are doing, they’ll most likely eat a jig. Even if some fish are already on the bed, nine times out of ten if you are throwing a jig up shallow, you’ll pull it right into or over a bed. He keeps the jigs as light as possible, 1/2- to 3/8-ounce, and moves them very slowly. “Fish can’t stand it,” he says, and he moves the jigs up and over rocks, keeping contact with the bottom. Contact is the key. His favorite jig trailers are the Fat Baby Craw or a twin-tail grub. The twin-tail is what he goes to if the fish seem to want more flapping action. He fishes the 1/2-ounce jig on 12-pound Sugoi fluorocarbon and the 3/8-ounce on 16-pound.
During prespawn the fish are starting to get aggressive he says, so they aren’t line-shy at all, but he likes the Sugoi because it gives him great hooksets. He sticks with natural colors for baits – greens, browns, watermelon, bluegill, and sunfish colors. The bluegill is especially effective if they are starting to bed, because they will attack bluegills that threaten the nest.
His advice is not to overthink it – he’ll usually have a bunch of rods tied on this time of year: Senko, Texas rig, wacky rig Senko, and jigs. If he’s fishing deeper water he’ll use a nail weight in the Senko, if he’s fishing shallow he won’t. The Texas rig is usually a craw for throwing around trees and stuff he says. He’ll generally peg the sinker or use a bobber stopper and in fact he usually has both rigs tied on and laid out on the deck. In fact, he may have as many as 12 to 14 rods on deck by the end of the day, especially if he’s pre-fishing. Crankbaits, including a square bill, and jerkbaits are also great this time of year. If he’s throwing a Chatterbait, a Zako is his trailer of choice.
When we were out with Marty on Canyon Lake during the prespawn, he threw a Texas-rigged green pumpkin pepper Psycho Dad in ten to fifteen feet in the stained water. “Just get it on the bottom and drag it over the rocks. If you hit a rock, pop it – they’ll often eat it right then,” he says. Later in the day they might take it the instant it hits the water. You can actually do that all day, he says, because eventually the fish are going to move up. He prefers to use tungsten weights and a 3/0 WG hook on his craws. He says you can feel the bottom better with tungsten.
When he comes to a little cut, he likes to throw a Senko on a drop-shot rig with an 8-inch leader. This time of year you can get things close to the bottom, he says. He’ll use a ¼-ounce tungsten weight and drag the drop shot all the way down the cut. Sometimes he catches spawning bass on this rig, because a lot of bass spawn in deeper water, especially if they are being messed with and pressured. Little cuts in the sides of channels are particularly good during prespawn. He says the fish are fixated on the bottom this time of year – anything that crawls through where they’re making a bed or thinking about making a bed is fair game.
One thing Marty really likes to find this time of year is a spot where wood has piled up after being washed in by spring thaws, especially if the wood has been silted over a bit. This kind of cover is an absolute haven for crawdads, and the fish are voracious crawdad eaters this time of year. Rocky banks and rock piles are great as well. He says to pay close attention to where you catch your fish this time of year – there could be what looks like miles of identical shore line, but there will be just one or two spots where you hook up. Check those spots out and see what is under the water that is keeping them there.
One thing you need to remember, says Marty, is that there could be three or four stages of the spawn where you are fishing, especially in bigger lakes. Different areas of the water warm up at different times, so every time the moon gets full there can be spawning going on somewhere. Keep an eye on the water temperature and let that be your guide. If you don’t like bed fishing, there is always somewhere to catch pre- or post-spawn bass on a big lake.
There are almost always some fish up shallow somewhere, but if you just aren’t getting the action you want shallow, try fishing all the way down to the channel. Work main points and secondary points all the way out to the deep water. The bass that are thinking about moving up will be staging on bends, especially in trees or rocks on bends.
Fishing is a mental game, according to Marty – you have to battle back from a bad tourney and you can’t let bad thoughts control you. He says he has learned that it’s a good idea to learn a few techniques really well so you can excel at them. More times than not this will pay off better than being passably good at everything, he says. Here’s how he sums up his advice on fishing prespawn: don’t overthink it. Tie on three or four baits in different colors, start on a main point and fish about a quarter of the way in, then get the hell out of there and move on to the next. Pick up the bait that will work best on whatever is in front of you. Cover water.