However, many anglers may fish long hours just to catch a few 12-inch bass to show for it.
“I have trouble with post-spawn fishing because it’s transitional,” said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The spawn takes a lot out of them. Shallow water fishing declines after the spawn. You may still catch little ones, but the big females are transitioning to their summer habitat.”
That decline in shallow water fishing is the reason Ross isn’t the only bass angler who struggles to catch fish after the spawn. Anglers fishing for bass from Kentucky Lake in the Purchase Region to Fishtrap Lake in Pike County find tough fishing in late June. The likely reason is they still fish the same areas in the same way they did in April.
Anglers need to intercept largemouth bass during this transition. “It all depends on the kind of lake,” Ross explained. “At a shallow water lake like Lake Barkley, the post-spawn transition will be different than at a lake like Laurel River.”
Creek channels, points, weedlines and other features such as roadbeds or rows of stumps along what was once a fencerow serve as arteries for fish migration. They move from the shallow spawning beds to deeper summer bass habitats such as deep points, channel drops and off-shore humps in June.
“They aren’t going to randomly swim around in open water and then dive down to their summer habitat,” Ross said. “They are going to follow something. On a really shallow lake, they may use a weedbed as a guide, but on most lakes, it is usually a channel. At a deep lake like Laurel or Cumberland, they may just move down the point closest to their spawning grounds.”
On shallow to mid-depth lakes with defined channels – such as Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley, Barren River Lake or Green River Lake – a soft plastic jerkbait, or a Carolina-rigged 7- to-inch plastic worm or lizard, is a tremendous choice to fish channels in June. Carolina rigs consist of a heavy egg-shaped sinker and a swivel. Tie the hook 1-2 feet from the swivel, with the egg sinker placed above the swivel to keep the sinker from contacting the hook. This gets the rig down, but allows the bait to float above the bottom.
Sling the Carolina rig onto the flats adjacent to a channel, then work the bait over the channel lip and down into the channel. Channels with brush or stumps along their lips are the best places to try. Once you catch a fish, mentally note the location and depth and try and replicate those conditions along other channels in the lake. This may lead to a glory day you’ll brag about to your buddies for many years.
“Flats are good post-spawn areas,” Ross said, “especially if they lie near channels, stump fields or weedlines.”
Carolina rigs are also good for probing weedlines. The heavy weight of the rig plows the way for the soft plastic offering to hover just above bottom. Soft plastic jerkbaits and spinner baits are two other lures to try along a weedline during the post-spawn period.
In deep lakes like Herrington, Laurel River Lake, Lake Cumberland – or most lakes east of Interstate 75 – a 4- to 6-inch finesse worm rigged on a Shakey head and slowly worked down the point should intercept any transitioning bass. A Shakey head is a specialty jig designed to make a soft plastic bait stand up from the bottom. By gently twitching the tip of your fishing rod, you can impart a tantalizing action to the bait.
A 3/16 -ounce jig-and-pig combination swum just over the bottom along the contour of the point also fools post-spawn bass.
For soft plastic lures on the Carolina rig, Shakey rig or jig-and-pig combination, earth tones are the way to go in June. Combinations of green, brown, black, red or orange perform well on bass. For soft plastic jerkbaits and spinner baits, the reliable white and chartreuse combination is still tough to beat.
The June post-spawn transition period isn’t that hard to figure out if you intercept bass as they move from their breeding grounds to their summer haunts. Don’t fish for them in same areas as you did earlier this spring. They’ve left town for the summer.
Author Lee McClellan is an award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.