How to Catch Fry Guarders

How to Catch Fry Guarders

Many things are happening simultaneously as largemouth bass come off the beds. Where applicable, the shad spawn is in full swing. Then there are often other baitfish like bluegill and blueback herring starting to spawn as well. Meanwhile, the bass have been so focused on spawning that their own survival has taken a backseat. They stumble from the bed a bit dazed, confused and lethargic at first, but ready to feed up as soon as they can get their fins back under them.

Then it’s game on. The veritable smorgasbord around them is right on time. But these food sources we’ve already mentioned aren’t the only things bass fresh off the bed are feeding on. The females will even turn on their own young, while the males guard the school of baby bass (or fry), working tirelessly to ward off the threat of mother and other predators like bluegill and other bass.

Targeting these fry guarders (and the big females that are often lurking nearby) is one of the most interactive ways to fish for bass. You can often watch as the fish examine and hopefully eat your bait. But there are ways to catch fry guarders too, even when you can’t actively see them. Let’s dive deeper into all of this now.


Baits to Use 

The easiest way to catch fry guarders is by just fishing for them in areas you suspect they’ll be, without actively looking at the fish. Targeting spawning areas with baits like hollow body frogs, poppers, buzzbaits and Flukes gives you the ability to put what the bass would believe to be a threat to their young into an area where the fry should be swimming around.

The little schools of baby bass, or "balls of fry”, instinctively know to hang close to cover for protection. So using baits like these around grass lines, shallow brush and seawalls is a great way to intersect the bass while fishing blind.

 Wacky-rigged Senkos are also fantastic baits for targeting fry guarders, because you can skip these baits under docks and bushes where many other baits can’t go. And the slow fall of the wacky rig is often too much for a fry guarder or big female to take. Frogs and swimbaits are good for skipping into these areas as well, but you’ll experience fewer short strikes with the wacky rig.


Other cues to look for -

When you’re “blind casting” for fry guarders (which basically just means fishing in an area you suspect bass are guarding fry but you can’t actually see the balls of fry or the bass underwater), you can still be on the lookout for visual indicators that tell you you’re in the right place.

As we’ve already mentioned, looking for isolated cover in or near spawning areas is a great way to narrow the search. But there are other ways to find fry guarders as well, even in situations when you can’t see into the water because of low light or mud.

First, be on the lookout for the fry scurrying along the surface, especially when fishing a topwater or subsurface bait just under the water. It takes a keen eye and a commitment to watching the bait at all times, but you’ll actually see little minnows run from your bait quite often this time of year, as your lure blows by or through a ball of fry.

This is not only a good indicator that you’re in the right area, but it will also tell you if you should slow down and throw something else at that spot, based on whether or not you get bit on that initial cast. It may also be a clue to slow down and fish the whole area more thoroughly, since several bass will often spawn in the same area.

Using a buzz toad or a buzzbait to cover water until you start to see fry running along the surface is a great way to find productive areas, but then slowing down with a wacky rig or weightless Fluke is even better for picking the area clean.

 You’ll also see wakes sometimes, as the bass that are either guarding the fry or trying to eat them make quick runs near the surface, swiping at the fry or running directly at threats to run them off. If you see a wake like this in an area where you suspect bass are guarding fry, cast a wacky rigged Senko to the area and be ready, chances are you’re about to get a bite.


Final thoughts -

Fishing for bass around fry can be a lot of fun. It might seem a little inhumane to target these bass at first. But returning the males to the water immediately will allow the bass to return to their defensive posts. And toting the females a little ways away before releasing them will actually help the frys chances of survival.

Whether you’re targeting the male bass that are guarding the fry or you’re trying to pickoff the more reluctant females that are often lurking nearby, fishing around fry is a great way to get bit in the immediate post spawn. Remember to cover water with baits like toads, buzzbaits and swimbaits, but to then slow down with hollow body frogs, poppers and even wacky rigs once you get into a productive area. Try taking these tips to your local body of water soon, and you should still be able to get in on the action.

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