Bass and beds

– Ken Kellar photos

Across northwest Ontario, those of us who enjoy competitive fishing, specifically bass tournament fishing, are lucky to enjoy some great events from July through early October. Many anglers may not realize it, but while the bass season remains open year-round, most waters are catch and release only or limit the harvest of a couple of smaller-sized bass until July 1.

That’s the reason we don’t have any bass tournaments during the spring. It’s a good rule to protect bass while they go through the spawning process when they are protecting their beds.

When I say beds, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the bass spawning process, they are a nest that a male bass will clear off on the lake floor, usually three or four feet in diameter. The female will come and lay eggs in the nest, then the male will guard the nest for a couple of weeks until the eggs eventually hatch and become a small ball of fry.

While they are guarding these nests, male bass, particularly smallmouth bass, become very territorial and remove anything that comes within contact of the nest area. When the bass are caught and removed from the nest, it allows little robbers to go in and eat the eggs. These robbers could be small perch, rock bass, or even crayfish.

It doesn’t take a lot of skill to catch a bass when it’s guarding its nest, at least before they have been caught a few times. Many anglers target bass when they are guarding these nests this time of year when they are going through this spawning process, but it’s always felt kind of unethical to me. It’s nice to leave them alone to let them do their thing.

In my professional career south of the border, the spring spawning period is when they choose to target bass and hold tournaments, especially in the south. On many waters where the fishing is not as good as it is where we live, it’s the time of year that offers the best fishing opportunities. Many of these lakes are stocked with bass, maybe to compensate for these activities?

I do appreciate that we are still allowed to fish for bass throughout the year because there is still excellent fishing to be had this time of year without focusing on pulling bass off of their nests. If you target slightly deeper points in six to twelve feet of water, you can still catch good numbers of fish that are both pre-spawn, heading shallow and post-spawn, making their way out deeper. If you have never noticed a bass on a nest before, the full-blown spawn is happening right now. The nests are usually lighter in appearance than the surrounding bottom. You can often see these light spots, then the fish sitting in the middle of it. It’s fun to watch the fish because you can get close to them, closer than you can throughout the rest of the year.

The Sunset Country bass tournament season will be here before we know it. In the meantime, there are a few walleye tournaments taking place, including the Kenora Women’s Walleye Tournament, which took place on Lake of the Woods this past weekend and the Dryden Walleye Masters, which will take place on Wabigoon Lake this coming weekend.

Congratulations to Bree Becker and Ashley Bruce on winning the Women’s Walleye Tournament for the second time.

Bree Becker and Ashley Bruce hold up part of their winning catch from the Kenora Women’s Walleye Tournament this past weekend.