Once the spawn is on the back side, there are these things you hear a lot about called fry guarders. Who are these fish? Where are they? How do you catch them? There are a bunch of questions about this phenomenon. I will try my best to give you the skinny on what this is all about.
When bass spawn, the male bass makes the bed. The male bass coaxes the female into laying her eggs in his bed. Once he fertilizes the eggs, he guards them. Once the eggs hatch, the baby bass, called fry, are guarded by that male bass. The daddy bass does his best to scare off any predator fish and protect the fry. During this time is when you can catch those infamous “fry guarders.” And don’t let the term let you think they are the little bass. I have caught a ton of four-pound fry guarders.
Fry guarders can be some of the easiest and hardest fish to catch. Once you understand that last statement, you are on the right track. They are hard because a lot of times the fry guarder will run at or hit at your lure to scare it away, not eat it. Sometimes they are easy to catch because they are in such an aggressive mood most all the time. Getting them to commit to eat your bait is the whole key.
There are some techniques that I think excel for these fry guarder bass. Wacky worm, floating worm, drop shot, topwater, frog, and reverse shimmy rig are some of my favorite ways to capture those fry guarders. I think that is the case because they like baits that fall slowly or suspend in their face. They are seen as a threat. They are treated as just that. You know what happens when they are seen as a threat.
The wacky worm is easy. The gold standards for these are the Yamamoto Senko for the weighted and Zoom Trick Worm for the higher floating option. There are other options in this category including ones from Missile Baits. A wacky worm is a great option and should be on the short list for fry guarders.
The floating worm is not a worm that floats. It is a straight worm like a Zoom Trick Worm or Missile Quiver that is left weightless and Texas rigged. It is best on lighter line and thrown on a spinning rod. The worm is fished shallow and twitched to make the bait dart from side to side. It also comes through cover amazing and can be skipped way under overhanging cover to reach fish that don’t see many baits.
The drop shot is a must have on fry guarders. I like a little longer hook to weight length on the fry guarders. Something in the 18-24” range as a distance between weight and my Bomb Shot (my preferred bait on the drop shot here). You want to pitch that drop shot on any isolated piece of cover in pockets and on the sides leading out of them. The fry often hang on those isolated pieces of cover and they can’t take that Bomb Shot hanging right in their fry party.
When it is sunny, the fry will often push right up to the surface for the heat of the sun so topwater is a great option for the FG’s. I love many topwater baits here and the type of lake and cover will dictate the topwater I throw. A frog is great around matted or emergent vegetation. A floating jerkbait can be good in calm pockets. Buzzbaits are great in stained or muddy water. Something that does not move quickly seems to be my favorite except in stained or muddy water. The steady gurgle of a buzzbait lets them track it down and eat it.
The last one of the fry guarder techniques is one of the least known but very effective. The reverse shimmy rig is taking a stick bait, Texas rigging it weightless, and sticking a nail weight in the tail so it falls backwards and shimmies. The Missile Baits 48 is designed to do this. You rig the hook on the skinnier end and then insert the 1/32-ounce Neko Weight in the thicker end. I use this rig on a baitcaster with 14-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon. Just pitch the 48 around isolated cover in spawning type pockets so the bait can do its reverse shimmy action thing.
Take these techniques and go after these fry guarders. Remember the part about some of them just won’t bite even though they look aggressive. Don’t get too hung up on one fish. Cover water and look for a pattern on where you are getting bit. Go out there and have a ball being the master of the fry guarders.