Taking Advantage of Minnesota’s Early Catch & Release Bass Season

For many years Minnesota bass fishermen were forced to wait patiently as walleye anglers and bass anglers in other states kicked off their seasons. Fortunately this is no longer the case. Last year Minnesota implemented an early 2 week catch and release bass season that applies to all inland lakes across the state. Now bass fishermen are able to launch their boats on the same weekend as walleye and pike fishermen in early May instead of late May. What does this mean for us bass nuts?

Every year is different in terms of weather patterns and the timing of when fish are in certain stages so nothing is automatic, but in general this new catch and release season provides opportunities that weren’t often available in the past. We are of course referring to the pre-spawn and spawn periods of both largemouth and smallmouth bass. These two stages can provide some of the best fishing of the year. Numbers of fish and big fish are a common occurrence when your timing is right.

This Minnesota Smallmouth was caught near a staging area where fish were prepping for the spawn
This Minnesota Smallmouth was caught in a staging area where fish were prepping for the spawn


This is a bite that the early catch and release season benefits the most. Even with the old regulations bass fishermen were able to enjoy the spawn fairly often, again depending on spring weather patterns. Pre-spawn was a different story. Unless we experienced an ultra-cold spring or you were fishing way up north, a strong pre-spawn bite was difficult to access with the old regulations when the season opened in late May. This bite was usually over by the time the season started.

Fishing for bass in the pre-spawn stage can provide some of the best days on the water that you will experience all season. If your timing is right numbers of bass and big bass will be gorging themselves aggressively as they prepare for the spawn. On warm spring days with rising water temperatures, moving baits like spinnerbaits, swim jigs and shallow crankbaits will be all that is needed to pick off aggressive bass in shallow water. This goes for both largemouth and smallmouth. If you’re dealing with a cooler day or lower water temperatures bass will still be putting on the feedbag but you may have to slow your presentation down with jerkbaits, flukes and Senkos or slow moving swimbaits. Often times you’ll have to do some searching to find the warmest water temperatures and staging areas but when you do, its game on.

Pre-Spawn Largemouth on moving baits makes for fast action!
Pre-Spawn Largemouth on moving baits makes for fast action!


Even under the old regulations, the spawn was usually accessible especially on lakes farther north. With the new catch and release season it’s almost a guarantee that spawning fish can and will be found by fishermen every season. Again, timing is everything when bed fishing, especially if you’re hoping to catch big females on their bed. A big females bass, say 4 pounds or more, might only spend 1-2 days dropping eggs on her bed. The smaller male spends much more time tending the bed and guarding eggs or fry. Techniques for bed fishing are often very simple and depend on angler preference. In our opinion, fluorocarbon is a must especially in clear bodies of water. Baits range from small tubes to craw baits and drop shots. Personally a small, compact bait that doesn’t have appendages gets the nod. Rigging this bait on a standard 1/4oz jig head is best. The simple compact bait doesn’t allow fish to bite off craws or tails and the standard jig head allows you change plastics quickly when the action is fast and your bait is damaged or not getting bit. A 1/4oz or heavier is best so the bait sinks straight down onto your target. The extra weight also helps your accuracy especially in wind.

These are of course techniques that always need to be played with. In general largemouth are usually a bit more picky and difficult to trick when they’re on a bed. Several adjustments may need to happen before the right combination is found. On the other hand, don’t overthink smallmouth. If you have smallmouth locked on beds just put something in their wheelhouse and move it. They will generally eat it in a hurry.

The new early catch and release bass season in Minnesota is an exciting thing for bass anglers. Always treat these pre-spawn and spawning fish with care so they are able to reproduce and benefit your favorite bodies of water for years to come. Have fun this spring! It should be an exciting time!