Michael Murphy’s Postspawn Topwater Tactics:
It’s almost like clockwork each year, you’re on fish all through the spring, spend a few weeks having a blast fishing the spawn, then they simply disappear. Call it a post-spawn funk, recovery period, or whatever; but it can be downright difficult to put any kind of consistent pattern together in the period immediately following the spawn.
Former FLW pro Michael Murphy thinks a lot of anglers make this time more difficult than they have to, saying “That immediate post-spawn period is hard for a lot of guys and there are a number of reasons for that. I think the biggest is that guys spend too much time thinking about where the fish are going, and not enough time covering water with a topwater, something that I have consistently caught them doing when the fish come off the bed.”
The secret to Murphy’s topwater confidence is his observation that there is almost always a group of fish that spawns before the “official spawn” brings anglers up shallow. Those fish are often already recovered by the time the bulk of the spawn winds down, and he begins targeting them while other anglers are still looking for fish on beds.
“I know that most bass spawn in that 66-70 degree range, but I’ve personally seen lots of fish up well before that, so often those fish are already done and recovered by the time most guys think the spawn is in full swing. As soon as the water starts to get to about 65 degrees, I begin targeting those fish that are already done and a topwater is a huge focus in my approach.”
Murphy thinks the driving force behind post-spawners propensity for devouring topwater offerings is that they are turning the tables on the bluegills that were predominant nest predators during the bass spawn, saying “Those bass had to put up with pesky bluegills raiding their nests the whole time they were trying to get their business done; as soon as those bass come off the bed, it’s on and you don’t want to be a bluegill near an angry post-spawn five pounder.”
It’s for this reason that the South Carolina angler relies on a lot of bluegill imitating baits during the post-spawn. “You can get a wide variety of topwater baits today that do a phenomenal job of imitating bluegill. Anything from a prop bait to a frog can work wonders at imitating a crippled bluegill when targeting shallow water post spawn fish, you just need to keep that in mind and stay in areas that bluegill frequent.”
Where to Look
On reservoirs, the bass often spawn a little earlier in the upper ends due to increased color and shallow water causing it to warm up faster, so it makes sense that Murphy usually starts up there when looking for recovering post spawners. “I like to pay attention to spawning areas up the rivers, places like the backs of major creeks and pockets off the channel. Once there, I try to find flats and stretches of bank near the last 6-10 foot deep water in the area. They’re usually gonna be on some type of cover close by. Things like docks, laydowns, stumps, and rocks are all dynamite for holding post spawn fish that you can dupe with a topwater.”
Because he uses a target oriented approach, Murphy dotes on his Denali signature series 6’8” topwater/jerkbait rod for most of his postspawn topwater fishing because its shorter length allows for extremely accurate casting. He pairs the rod with a high-speed Lews BB-1 casting reel spooled exclusively with monofilament, saying “you need that stretch with treble hooks, and I’ve found that I land many more fish in close quarters with mono than any other type of line. I use 20 lb Toray Bawo Polyamide Plus almost exclusively and am extremely confident with that setup.”
Murphy’s bait choices depend a lot on water clarity. In clear water he likes prop baits like the Deps Buzzjet, Ima Skimmer, and the floating Ima Flit 120, which he works like a wakebait. In stained water, Murphy throws a popper like the Deps Pulsecod or a Kahara hollow bodied Frog, saying “It’s really a tight quarters, commotion deal so I utilize several baits and let the fish tell me what they prefer. The dirtier the water, the larger commotion I like to cause.”
One of the things Murphy likes most about fishing the immediate post-spawn with topwaters is that it gets you fishing in the right water depth and around the same types of cover that become boat-loading spots once the next phase of the season unfolds, the shad spawn. “If you are already up shallow fishing topwater, you’ll be right there to get the most out of it once the shad start spawning, something that anglers chasing their tails out on the main lake won’t find nearly as quickly.”
This early topwater pattern isn’t necessarily a recipe for having big numbers days, but Murphy believes that as a tournament pattern it still shines because the fish you do catch are going to be the right ones. “Another reason a lot of guys don’t devote a ton of time to fishing topwater during the immediate post spawn is because you may not get a ton of bites. They are missing out, as I can guarantee you that almost every fish you do catch doing it will be one that gets brought to the stage.”