As winter turns to spring, the biggest bass will migrate into small feeder creeks to spawn. When the main river is flooded with spring rains, feeder creeks often have clearer water and rocky substrate attracting spawning bass. Most important, these narrow, shallow creeks are inaccessible to motorboaters.
Find A Feeder
Not all feeder creeks are created equal. Creeks with a deep channel or high banks at the confluence with the main river are best. The higher spring flow on the main river will act like a dam, causing the water flowing down the feeder creek to back up.
Scout creeks in the summer, when the water is lower, looking for a deep channel at the confluence. Up river, look for significant areas of gravel, chunk rock, boulders, wood and brush, which will be submerged in the spring.
Fishing a Feeder
Expect prespawn females to show up in the creek mouth from late winter to early spring. As the water temperature warms and the spawning conditions improve, more bass will move into the creek and migrate further upstream.
A prime feeder creek, with a significant backup at the confluence, can hold spawning bass up to two miles from the creek mouth.
If the creek is small and the backup short, I’ll access the creek from the main river. On a larger creek with a significant backup, I’ll access the creek upstream from the confluence and fish down to the mouth.
Target prespawn bass on significant structure such as clusters of boulders, chunk rock, wood or brush. One of the best places to find feeder creek bass is on the edge of a sharp depth change. If the creek bottom is three feet deep then quickly drops into a six-foot channel, you can bet on bass waiting to ambush bait swirling in the confluence.
Feeder creeks hold spawning bass in almost any river system. The same strategies and structures apply, but the tactics and tackle change from region to region.
We asked pros from the most popular river systems for their feeder creek secrets.
Randy Vining | GEORGIA
Target: Shoal bass
Find the fish: Target clusters of chunk rock in relatively deep water with
Rod: Seven-foot, medium-heavy, fast-action baitcasting
Reel: High-speed, 7:1, bait casting
Line: 15-pound braid
Lure: Three-to four-inch finesse worm or drop shot worm in dark colors.
Rigging: 1/0 offset hook Texas rigged with a 3/16-ounce, unpegged, tungsten bullet weight.
Presentation: Slow retrieve, barely tickling the bottom. Pause and jiggle. Expect subtle pick-ups. If you feel weight or mushiness, set the hook.
Tim Perkins | ALABAMA
Target: Spotted bass
Find the fish: Spotted bass love wood. Look for a feeder creek that bends
and winds. Current pushing into the outside of a bend will trap clusters of wood attracting big spots.
Rod: Six-foot, six-inch, medium-power, fast-action baitcaster
Reel: High speed 7:1 baitcasting
Line: 15-pound monofilament
Lure: 3/8-ounce chartreuse and pearl skirt with silver and gold willow and Colorado blades.
Presentation: Goad pre-spawn bass to strike by landing the spinnerbait into the deepest submerged wood piles on the creek bend. Each time the lure contacts wood, pop your wrist to make the lure jump.
Juan Veruete | PENNSYLVANIA
Target: Smallmouth bass
Find the fish: When the pre-spawn smallmouth are staging in a backed-up creek mouth, focus on the down-current side of submerged boulders and small piles of chunk exposed during lower creek flows.
Rod: Seven-foot medium-power, medium-fast spinning
Reel: High-speed, 7:1 retrieve, spinning
Line: 20-pound, yellow braided line with a four-foot fluorocarbon leader.
Lure: Three-to four-inch, soft-plastic crawfish.
Rigging: 1/8-ounce, football-head jig
Presentation: Smallmouth can be finicky when they first move into the feeder creeks. Make short, deliberate hops to get the smallmouth’s attention. Insert long, five- to 10-second pauses between hops. When you feel the signature double-tap pick-up, set the hook hard.
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