Smallmouth bass are amazing creatures to watch — especially during the spawn. They are a robust, athletic fish that play hardball on the field and in the nest.
Smallmouths move into the gravel-based nesting areas when the water temperatures reach about 60 degrees. They prefer to make beds on a gravelly substrate to ensure proper egg adhesion. The nests can be in bullrushes, on main lake rock flats, next to sunken wood, tires, cement blocks, but boulders if they have them.
While the males sweep and fan the nest, the big females often swim in and out of the scene, lurking in the shadows. Eventually, the boys have fanned an area that can be up to three-foot in diameter. It’s curious to note that the biggest bass also generally occupy to largest nest. Also noteworthy is that smallies often return to the same nesting sites of previous years — making housekeeping a predictable effort.
The courtship process is curious. The aggressive males will strut around the nest, always on the make for a female. They will twirl around the nest, cajole, push, and prod, the females toward the bed. The build-up to the event can actually become violent. Males sometimes ram into her plump side to break the egg sac. The courtship can go on for hours with other swinging courtiers joining into the mix.
Female smallmouth often mate with more than one partner. When it happens, it happens quickly! The sporty males will fertilize thousands of her eggs in successive spurts.
Then, in an instant, she is gone — leaving the male to protect their progeny.
He will guard the nest, most ferociously, from countless predators, including the big guy from above, wielding a wicked tube jig.