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Bass fishing starts today; it's a great sunrise event

Brad Westphal shows off a big early season largemouth from a local lake. Beginning today, anglers can legally target both largemouth and smallmouth bass. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

For some anglers, today marks the "real" fishing opener. Though not as many anglers head out at the stroke of midnight for Minnesota's bass opener compared to the walleye opener, it's still a popular event come sunrise.

Bass don't feed as heavily at night compared to daylight hours, primarily due to their vision, yet it's not uncommon to hook a big largemouth in the middle of the night. Smallmouth bass are even scarcer after dark.

Once the sun rises today, anglers will cast their spinnerbaits, plastic worms, weedless frogs and topwater poppers in hopes of landing a big bucketmouth.

Minnesota residents often don't realize how good the bass fishing is in our state until they either experience bass fishing in other regions or talk with anglers from different areas.

If talking average size, Minnesota bass rival those available in many states throughout the nation. No, you're probably not going to catch a 10-pounder (which would beat the current state record of 8-pounds, 15-ounces), but it's not hard to find fish over 3-pounds and plenty of them. Catching twenty or thirty bass in a day is definitely a possibility.

Right now largemouth bass are in the midst of or finishing up spawning, depending upon which lake you're on.

As is the case with all fish, the spawning rituals of largemouth bass are quite interesting. Males first enter shallow regions, typically one to six feet deep, and fan out a nest. Unlike bluegills, which establish nests within close proximity to one another, bass typically try to keep their nests away from other fish.

After the male clears the nest, it remains near it and waits for a female to approach. Females drop their eggs which range between 2,000 and 7,000 eggs per pound of the female's weight. Female bass may disperse their eggs in one single nest or among several different nests.

After fertilizing the eggs, male largemouth bass guard the nest and keep silt from settling on top of the eggs by occasionally fanning them.

In two to five days, the eggs hatch and the male stays with the newborn fry until they reach a size of about an inch.

However, I have witnessed big female largemouth bass stay close to the balled-up school of bass fry as they leave the nest.

For today and the next few weeks, bass will be in relatively shallow water as they complete the spawning process.

Anglers looking to catch a big bass should lean toward baits that move slowly through the water, since the females become somewhat lethargic as they recuperate from spawning. Plastic worms rigged weedless, bass jigs with a soft plastic or pork rind trailer and crankbaits retrieved very slowly are all good options for catching bass right now.

And if you aspire to beat the 8-pound, 15-ounce state record, allow the bass to spawn without disrupting the process. Catch and release is also imperative to ensure future populations and year classes of fish thrive.