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There are actually a number of things to consider when answering the question, “When do bass spawn?” But the shortest route to the answer has to do with water temperature. Most black bass species spawn when the water temp rises to between 55 and 70 degrees. However, the length of time the water is at these optimal temperatures also plays a role, as does the moon phase and the water’s depth.
Largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass spawn throughout much of the year, depending on the geographical location, and they also spawn at varying depths compared to one another. For example, a largemouth bass in southern Florida may spawn in December as shallow as 6 inches deep, with just enough water to cover its back, where some smallmouths in the Great Lakes may get started until July, and do so 20 feet deep. Of course, you need to know exactly when bass spawn in your neck of the woods, and the best places to fish. And we’re here to help.
Table of Contents
- Nationwide Peak Spawning Dates
- Water Temperature
- Moon Phase
- Time of Year
- Water Depth
- Best Baits
Projected Peak Spawning Dates Nationwide
Only a few years ago, Field & Stream interviewed biologists, guides, and bass pros to estimate the peak spawning dates throughout the country, which resulted in the map below. This makes for a great general guideline and starting point for figuring out when the bass spawn will be going strong in neck of the woods.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that this is just a starting point. Some of the very best fishing will no doubt take place before and after these dates, and, as noted above, the exact timing on your lake depends on a number of other factors, so let’s break it down.
When Do Bass Spawn? Water Temperature
The number one key to figuring out when bass on their beds, no matter where you live, is the water temperature. As the water temps rise into the lower 50s, pre-spawn bass begin making their way into the spawning grounds as they feed up and look for a good place to bed. Once temps climb into the upper 50s, many bass will fan beds with their tales and begin to lay their eggs, and then guard the nests. This whole process typically takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
Large numbers of bass will move up to spawn in waves, until water temps reach the 70 degree mark, and then the bedding activity will wind down for the year. All of this said, it’s important to understand a few caveats regarding water temperatures. Most of the time, anglers are gauging water temps using the transducer connected to their electronics. This transducer only sits a few inches under the water’s surface, so it’s really only gauging the water’s surface temperature, or thereabouts. And these surface temps can vary widely day to day.
Early in the spring in the southern United States, for instance, a couple warm days and nights could create a 10 degree spike in the surface temperatures, sending the surface water temp up from 50 to 60 degrees. The assumption based solely on the water temperature reading that day would be that the bass should be spawning. However, the two warm days won’t have been enough to raise the water temperatures down deeper. So, the bass won’t have yet felt the change in water temps needed to provoke them to move up and spawn. So remember, it takes a sustained change, with water temps in the mid-50s for multiple consecutive days, for the bass to really begin spawning.
Moon Phase and Time of Year
Bass spawn best across much of North America on either a full or new moon. Provided these lunar phases occur during a timeframe where the sustained water temperatures are in the optimal range, you’ll see an increase in bedding activity among the bass in the area.
The spring is most commonly associated with the bass spawn, simply because bass spawn across the Southeast, the East Coast, the West Coast and much of the central United States during the spring. However, bass also spawn down in the southern parts of Florida, Texas, and California, as well as Mexico, in the fall and winter. And they’ll spawn well into the summer in the northern United States and up into Canada. Another reason, why water temperatures should really be your guide.
When Do Bass Spawn? Water Depth
For anglers, it’s really important to remember that the depths at which the main species of black bass spawn vary widely. Some bass may spawn in less than a foot of water all the way out to 25 feet deep. The range of depths listed by species below works as a good, general guide.
- Largemouth – 2 to 8 feet deep
- Spotted bass – 8 to 12 feet deep
- Smallmouth – 3 to 20 feet deep
Typically on fisheries with multiple species of black bass, the largemouths will be the first to spawn followed by the spotted bass and then the smallmouths. This is simply because largemouths typically stage and spawn shallower, and the water at these depths warms up to the optimal 55-degree mark faster than the deeper water.
Best Baits for Spawning Bass
A list of the best lures for spawning bass would be too long to list here, but here are a few baits and rigs that you definitely want have have in your arsenal for the three main species of black bass.
Tops Baits and Rigs for Spawning Largemouths
Tops Baits and Rigs for Spawning Smallmouths
Tops Baits and Rigs for Spawnign Largemouths
In the end, the most important thing to remember is that bass begin to spawn when water temp rise to around 55 degrees. And the bass will continue breeding activity until the water temps top the 70 degree mark. The numbers of bedding bass typically increase when this window coincides with either a full or new moon. And you should look for bass to spawn at varying depths based on their species, from as shallow as 1 foot of water out to as much as 25 feet deep. Put that all together on your home waters, and you’ll know when to hit the water for some great fishing.