Smallmouth Spawning: Let’s Get Busy


The readers of come from a wide geographic area. In some areas, smallmouth bass are getting ready to spawn, in other areas, you are still shaking off winter and you are still in the pre-spawn phase.

Since we are big believers in catch and release fishing, we recommend not targeting bedding smallmouth bass and we wanted to make you aware of what goes on during this time of year. It’s pretty amazing, actually.

Smallmouth Spawning

As the water temperature moves into the 55-65 F range, smallmouth bass start behaving differently and focus on spawning (reproduction).

The male bass is responsible for getting the crib ready. Only about 25% of males will produce a nest in a given year.  The ideal nesting area is one with a hard bottom such as gravel or small stones in low current areas. Water depth is often in the 1-6 foot range. Rivers can be difficult for smallmouth bass because large rain storms or dry conditions can affect these levels more easily than in lakes.

Large eddies can serve as a great area for spawning.

They spend time creating a nesting area and working to attract female bass to lay their eggs.  The female bass lays eggs in several stages and the male fertilizes them, she hits the road and leaves her poor lonely mate to defend the nest 24 hours per day.

He often doesn’t even eat during this time.  Most people assume that the bass defending the nest are the females, but this isn’t true. She leaves to go relax and recover from producing all those eggs.

Female bass can lay anywhere between 2,500 and 16,000 eggs, depending on their size.  The larger the bass, the more eggs will be laid.  This is the reason that larger bass are protected.


After the female leaves, the male defends the nest while the eggs are maturing and hatching.  The eggs hatch in 3-6 days and the fry leave the nest approximately 10 days after hatching.

The death rate of smallmouth bass fry can be quite high.  They tend to stay in schools and some of their best hiding places are rocks, crevices and wood.

We don’t recommend fishing during spawning as this pulls the males away from their nests.  They are not actively feeding but striking at the lure as a defense response.  Often the females are recovering from laying their eggs and are difficult to catch.

Once the spawn is over and the males and females have had time to recover, the fun of summer smallmouth angling can begin.

To learn more about the origins of the smallmouth bass, check out this classic on Kindle:



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