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When Do Bass Spawn?

There are actually a number of things to consider when answering the question “when do perch spawn?” However, the shortest route to the answer has to do with water temperature. Most smallmouth bass spawn when the water temperature rises to 55 to 70 degrees. However, the period of time in which the water has these optimal temperatures, as well as the phase of the moon and the water depth also play a role.

Largemouth, smallmouth bass and sable bass spawn almost all year round depending on their geographical location and also at different depths compared to each other. For example, a largemouth bass in South Florida may spawn in December at depths of up to 6 inches with just enough water to cover its back, whereas some smallmouth bass in the Great Lakes may not start until July, at depths of 20 Foot. Of course, you need to know exactly when perch spawn in your area and where you can fish best. And we’re here to help.

Estimated nationwide peak spawning dates

Just a few years ago, Field & Stream surveyed biologists, guides and bass professionals to estimate the highest spawning dates across the country. The result was the following map. This provides a good general guideline and a good starting point for finding out when the bass population in the wild is increasing.

illustrated chart of when bass spawn nationwide
Pete Sucheski

However, it is important to remember that this is only a starting point. Some of the very best fishing dates will undoubtedly occur before and after these dates and as mentioned above the exact timing at your lake will depend on a number of other factors so let’s break this down in more detail.

When do perch spawn? Water temperature

The number one key to figuring out when bass will land on their beds is the water temperature, no matter where you live. When water temperatures drop below 50°C, pre-spawning perch make their way to the spawning grounds, where they feed and look for a good place to sleep. As soon as temperatures rise above 50 °C, many perch fan out their beds, start laying eggs and then guard the nests. This entire process usually takes a few hours to a few days.

Photo of a perch spawning bed
Your typical perch bed fanned out around flat vegetation. Shaye Baker

Large numbers of bass will come up in waves to spawn until the water temperature reaches the 70 degree mark and then bed activity will cease for the year. With that in mind, it’s important to be aware of a few caveats about water temperatures. Most often, anglers measure the water temperature using the transducer connected to their electronics. This transducer is only a few centimeters below the water surface and therefore actually only measures the surface temperature of the water or thereabouts. And these surface temperatures can vary wildly from day to day.

For example, in early spring in the southern US, a few warm days and nights could cause surface temperatures to rise by 10 degrees, causing surface water temperatures to rise from 50 to 60 degrees. The assumption based solely on the water temperature measurement that day would be that the perch should spawn. However, the two warm days may not have been enough to cause the water temperatures to rise further. So the perch will not yet have felt the change in water temperature it took to get it to come up and spawn. So keep in mind that it takes a sustained change, with water temperatures above 50°C for several consecutive days, for the perch to really start spawning.

Moon phase and season

Photo of a spawning bass
You can expect to catch bass from their beds on a full or new moon. Shaye Baker

Bass spawn best during a full or new moon in much of North America. Provided these phases of the moon occur during a period when sustained water temperatures are in the optimal range, you will see an increase in bed activity among the bass in the area.

Spring is most commonly associated with bass spawning, as spring spawns bass throughout the Southeast, East Coast, West Coast, and much of the central United States. However, during the fall and winter, bass also spawn in southern parts of Florida, Texas, and California, as well as Mexico. And they will spawn well into the summer throughout the northern United States and as far north as Canada. Another reason why water temperatures really should be your guide.

When do perch spawn? Water depth

It is really important for anglers to keep in mind that the depths at which the main smallmouth bass species spawn vary greatly. Some bass may spawn in less than a foot of water to a depth of 25 feet. The depth range by species below serves as a good, general guide.

  • Trout – 2 to 8 feet deep
  • Spotted Bass – 8 to 12 feet deep
  • Smallmouth—3 to 20 feet deep

Typically, in fisheries with multiple smallmouth bass species, largemouth bass spawn first, followed by spotted bass and finally smallmouth bass. This is simply because trout tend to spawn and spawn at shallower depths, and the water at these depths warms up to the optimum 55 degree mark faster than the deeper water.

Best baits for spawning bass

Photo of a spawning bass caught on a lure
A nice perch from a spawning bed. Shaye Baker

A list of the best baits for spawning bass would be too long to list here, but here are a few baits and rigs you’ll definitely want in your arsenal for the three main species of smallmouth bass.

Top lures and rigs for spawning trout

Photo of Texas rig fishing with a plastic lizard
A plastic lizard manipulated in Texas. Shaye Baker

Top baits and rigs for spawning small mouths

Photo of a bass dropshot rig
A dropshot manipulated finesse worm. Shaye Baker

Top lures and rigs for spawning trout

Photo by Ned Rig for Bass
A ned rig. Shaye Baker

Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is that bass begin to spawn when the water temperature rises to around 55 degrees. And the perch will continue breeding activity until the water temperature crosses the 70 degree mark. Bedfish numbers usually increase when this window coincides with a full or new moon. And you should be aware that bass spawn at varying depths depending on the species, from just a foot to as deep as 25 feet. Put it all together in your home waters and you’ll know when to hit the water for great fishing.

Related: The Michelangelo of Deer-Hair Flies.

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