Gus with a spotted bass taken from a spawning bed.

It’s May and fishermen are thinking about bass fishing – big bass, bedding bass, spotted and largemouth bass!

Catching them is easier said than done, since bedding bass are more interested in keeping their nest clean and protecting their fry from predators, than they are in eating. That’s why the easy part is to find the beds. Most are located in the very back of coves and along shallow shorelines. Savvy anglers, who wear polarized glasses, look for clear or sandy patches in an otherwise silted-over bottom. The nests are made by the male, while the larger female patiently waits for the right amount of sunlight and correct water temperature to lay her eggs.

Once located, the nest can be marked on a GPS, planted by a stick in the water, by throwing a golf ball close to the nest or by tying a rag to a nearby bush. It’s interesting to note, that only a percentage of nests are made in water shallow enough to see; others, particularly those of the spotted bass, are deeper and more difficult to find.

When ample nests are located and you are ready to catch a limit, begin casting with jerk baits, square-lipped crankbaits and bottom-bumping shaky-head type lures. The object is to make the bass think that the lure is a predator, not food, so keep it in the nest as long as you can. Since the fish are not in a feeding mood, multiple casts could be required to fool them into picking up the lure and swimming off the nest with it. Unless the fish is of trophy size, don’t waste your whole trip trying to tempt a stubborn bedding bass to bite. Move to the next spot where they could be easier to catch.

Not everyone has the patience or casting skills to stalk bedding bass, and that’s ok. Not all are spawning at the same time anyway. In fact, the mating season can last up to four months (usually three), depending on weather conditions. There are plenty of non–spawning fish to target. That explains why so many bass are caught in surface feeding schools, off points, over humps and around cover not related to bedding activity.

While the majority of the big bass caught during the spring months are taken in and around beds, there are others roaming in deeper water. If it’s only a “mess of bass” you want, regardless of size, try casting or trolling crankbaits around docks, rocks and points.

The minimum size limit for largemouth or spotted bass on Lake Norman is fourteen inches. The creel limit is five spotted and/or largemouth bass in combination. The exception is that two bass out of the five can be any size.

Bedding Bass Tips:

Be quiet, make long casts and don’t disturb the nesting area with the trolling motor prop wash, if your boat is equipped with power poles, use them. Wear dark clothing and try not to cast a shadow over the bedding fish. Be patient.

Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures, Inc. is an Outdoor Columnist and a full time Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Norman, NC. Visit his website at or call 704-617-6812.