Not surprising, as once the baby bass hatch, they immediately become the targets of every bluegill, crappie and turtle that spots them. The male’s job is to tuck the little ones into the nearest shadowy cover and drive off any would-be threats that encroach on the nursery.
Considering that marching a bunch of newborn baby bass even 50 yards invites danger, you can expect most of your fry guarders to set up shop just outside the actual spawning areas. This means those same protected creeks and coves where you found bed fish will eventually hold fry guarders.
Look closely at the area’s shallow grass, laydowns, stumps, and docks and you’ll often see a cloud of tiny figures huddling closely. The fry typically hold higher in the water column, but the male bass tend to hold a little deeper so they can keep an eye on the little ones, while monitoring the perimeter for encroaching threats.
While you’ll catch them any time of day, consider how sky conditions impact this game. More sun means better visibility, but that’s a two-way street. If you can see the fry guarder, assume he’s already seen you.
It’s definitely a give and take scenario, but your best bet is to quietly patrol the likely areas, blind cast far ahead of the boat, while scanning the areas near the boat for targets of opportunity. Often, long casts will disclose a fry guarder’s position as the male swirls or wakes after the bait; or when a cloud of fry “sprays” — leaping to avoid the passing bait.
One of the best baits for scattering fry or making a fry guarder move is a frog. Choose the traditional LIVE TARGET Hollow Body Frog, a soft plastic LIVE TARGET Freestyle Frog or a LIVE TARGET Frog Popper. Either of these presentations will do the trick.
Considering how bluegill and other panfish constantly harass bedding bass that are protecting eggs, as well as fry guarders watching the hatchlings, a LIVE TARGET Sunfish Swimbait brings a known enemy into the strike zone. When grass and other potential snags impede an open hook design, switch to the LIVE TARGET Hollow Body Sunfish for a topside presentation.
For closer targets, or follow-up casts, a soft plastic stickbait wacky rigged on a Mustad TitanX Wacky/Neko Dropshot hook. Because the fry are most often closer to the surface, you generally want to keep your presentations higher in the water column. However, if the male is spooky, or he’s bit and shakes a bait, you’ll do well by giving him a deeper look.
Two options: First, convert that wacky rig to a Neko rig by sticking a nail weight in the worm’s nose and switching the hook from a perpendicular orientation to a parallel position. For a more streamlined profile — better for flipping or pitching into grass or a laydown — Texas rig your bait on a Mustad Offset Shank Worm hook.