Bless the Santee Cooper bass spawn

With bass moving into extremely shallow water for the spawn, stealth tactics like a push pole instead of a trolling motor can make a big difference.
With bass moving into extremely shallow water for the spawn, stealth tactics like a push pole instead of a trolling motor can make a big difference.

Big bass and other fish moving shallow put March on map

Experienced bass anglers at Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie begin looking for big bass moving into shallower water by late February. The trend continues on through much of April, but to be consistently successful, anglers need a basic plan for this specific shallow-water fishing.

Evan Glenn of  Bonneau, S.C., may be a young bass angler, but he’s earned veteran credentials in his years. He has been fishing tournaments regularly since age 10 and learned about big bass fishing with his father, Darrell Glenn, now retired from tournament fishing.

But Evan Glenn and most local bass gurus agree that March is THE month for the most bedding action by the largest bass.

Glenn said when weather and water conditions align, an early spawn can occur in February or early March, and some of the biggest bass of the year typically move to the beds on that first wave.

Spawning trigger

Glenn said multiple factors impact when the spawn begins, and water temperature ranks high. He said that length of day and overall water conditions also impact the move to bedding areas.

“I’m on the hunt for bass moving to the beds once the water temperature gets to 50 degrees, and while that’s a little cool for actual bedding it’s time to begin the searching process,” he said. “Fishing at this time of the year is not all about finding fish on the beds, so don’t be single-minded in fishing styles. I’ll work deeper, prespawn staging areas, enabling me to stay tuned in with the bass migration as the water warms. Once the water temperature reaches 55 degrees, more big fish start moving to real shallow water, and by 60 degrees, the spawn is usually on.”

Glenn said by getting on prespawn patterns before the spawn, he knows when that pattern shifts, they’ve likely made the move shallower to spawning habitat.

“Not all the bass are going to move shallow at the same time, but now I’ll begin to fish both spawning and prespawn targets,” Glenn said. “To catch fish consistently, I refine top targets on nearly every trip because weather and water conditions impact where I’ll find fish on a good bite.”

Preferred areas

Bass prefer a firm bottom substrate, Glenn said, and sand, gravel and shell are usually high-percentage targets for him. He also likes pockets, coves and areas sheltered from heavy winds and boat traffic.

Bass aren’t the only game in town this month at Santee. Catfish are biting all over the lake, including in some very shallow water.

“The firm bottom substrate is where I find 90 percent of the beds, so I go with the high odds,” he said. “I’ve learned that beds need to have exposure to sunlight for a good portion of the day, even when they’re associated with some form of woody cover. I love isolated cypress trees, but some weeds, logs and stumps are good targets. A real key is casting accuracy and placing the lure very tight to the cover. Plus, it needs to enter the as water softly as possible.”

Glenn said trolling-motor noise in shallow water is a consideration, so he usually makes long casts to targets and often uses a push pole to navigate in very shallow water. He said Ninja-like stealth can add big bass to the catch.

Techniques, lures

“Quality sunglasses are important year-round, but essential for this shallow-water fishing,” Glenn said. “When working shallow water, I’m looking for individual fish roaming the shallows and fish on the beds as targets. Many factors are visual in March.”

Glenn’s tactics include a variety of lures, and spinnerbaits are a favorite for shallow water fishing.

“I like double- or triple-bladed willow leaf spinnerbaits,” he said. “It’s versatile, and I’ll work it on spawning flats to catch bass just before going on the bed and for targeting specific bass on a bed. I use a trailer hook at this time of year; that’s crucial.”

When targeting fish on the beds, he also works a ½-ounce size jig with a crawdad trailer, with black/blue and black/red his favored color patterns.

Glenn said not all bass spawn at the same time, and by late March and all through April, effective patterns include prespawn, spawn and postspawn techniques.

“To be successful on bass at this time of the year I’m versatile with my fishing techniques to fish multiple possibilities for the best fishing on any given day,” he said.


About Terry Madewell 812 Articles
Award-winning writer and photographer Terry Madewell of Ridgeway, S.C., has been an outdoors writer for more than 30 years. He has a degree in wildlife and fisheries management and has a long career as a professional wildlife biologist/natural resources manager.