Shedding light on springtime courting habits of bass

While many of us have personalized license plates on our vehicles that tell the world what we would like to do, Larry Brinker’s license plate tells the world what he actually does, which is catch bass. You might even say his truck is just “4bassin.”

The Las Vegas native grew up chasing largemouth bass on Lake Mead, and through the years he has gained more than a little knowledge about the lake’s bass fishery and how and where to catch them. Ask him a question about bass fishing and Brinker’s answer flows like a tenured professor’s lecture on a subject he has taught for many years. If he is interrupted, just give Brinker a key word and he picks up right where he left off. He doesn’t even stop to say, “Let me think about that.” He just starts talking and it all makes sense.

Recently, I asked Brinker if he could shed some light on springtime bass fishing and how to fish “the spawn.”

“The biggest factor in the spring is water temperature,” he said. “Once the surface temp can maintain an overnight temperature of around 55 to 57 degrees the bass are going to start moving up, usually the males, and definitely the larger females will move up and spawn first.”

While the males look for a place to spawn, the females will move into shallow water in search of crayfish and sunlight — crayfish because they are high in calcium, and sunlight for its warmth, both of which will promote egg development. This all happens as early as January or as late as April, Brinker said, and “all depends on the weather patterns we are getting at the time.”

Once the water surface temperature holds at 60 to 62 degrees, the bass will actively spawn. The males create nests, usually in an area where they have close access to deep water. They prefer a gravel bottom to help keep their eggs in the nest, and they like a little branch or a stick in that nest, too. When the female arrives, the pair will swim around the stick as part of the courting process.

Whether you are on shore or in a boat, you can locate nests by looking for a clear, round patch on the bottom. Sometimes they are very large, and sometimes they’re kind of small and hard to see. If you are in a boat and using a trolling motor, don’t try to stop right on a nest. Brinker recommends going right on past. Doing so will give you a chance to look at the structure and where the nest is so you can come back and put a sneak on the fish.

Brinker even goes so far as to use camouflage of sorts to make it harder for the fish to pick him out. “In the spring I typically wear a blue shirt, something that matches the sky, just to kind of camouflage myself and break up my outline a little bit. And I use bright colored jigs, tubes or 3- to 4-inch curl tails in chartreuse with silver glitter, pearl, pearlescent white or clear with silver sparkles ­— something that’s very annoying to them, and something that I can see.”

The fish don’t necessarily eat the bait when they are on nests, but they will try to remove it or violently attack it. “Sometimes when it’s in the nest, they will suck it in and spit it out, but you’ll never feel it. You’ll just it see (the bait) disappear and then they’ll spit it right out of the nest. Sometimes they’ll pick it up and try to swim it out of the nest. So when you see the bait disappear you just set the hook,” Brinker explained.

Because female bass move from nest to nest and males remain in the nest to defend the eggs, Brinker advocates the timely release of males taken off nests.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at