Water in some coves was 64 degrees in early March in some mid-Georgia lakes last year. That warming water drew in the early spawners, and they may have been too far along in their cycle to stop when cooler weather hit a couple of weeks later. Although the folks talking to me said water temperatures were back in the upper fifties where they saw bass bedding, the should have a successful spawn, especially with the warm days later.
Bass can be caught off the bed. Unlike some northern states where bass fishing season is closed until after the spawn, fishing for them is allowed in Georgia and most other southern states all year long, including during the spawn. Bass are so successful in the south that they do not need protecting during the spawn. Also, most of our lakes have stained water and many bass spawn too deep to be seen by fishermen.
Male bass move into the shallows and fan a bed on a hard bottom. It looks like a plate or shallow bowl on the bottom, often near a stump or rock. He stays there keeping it clean until a female swims over into the areas. After picking a bed that looks best to her, she will deposit some eggs in the bed, staying on it for a few hours or longer. Then she may move on to finish laying her eggs in other beds.
The male bass will fertilize the eggs and then guard them until they hatch. He runs off all intruders like bream and crawfish that want to eat the eggs. When the young hatch, he stays with them, guarding them for a few days until they are able to swim fairly well and hide. Then he becomes a predator and will eat his own young!
The male bass is easy to catch off the bed. He is very aggressive and will hit just about anything that comes near him. The female is much larger and much harder to catch. Fishermen often spend hours trying to aggravate a female into hitting something so they can catch her.
Plastic lizards, trick worms, tube baits an plastic worms cast into the bed and twitched there will often draw a strike from the female. You might have to keep it in the bed for a long time, though. It is usually not worth the effort to me but some tournament fishermen have incredible catches during the spawn..
Should bass be left alone to bed? Some states have seasons that are closed during spawning season. Yet biologists tell me catching bedding bass here will not harm them. After all, in her lifetime a female bass has to produce only two young that survive to be successful, one to replace her and one to replace her mate. She produces thousands of eggs each year, and may spawn for many years, so a lot of females can be unsuccessful and we will still have good populations of bass.
Another argument says big females should be left alone to spawn to keep there genes in the genitic pool in the lake. Since a big female has already spawned for many years, her genes should be widespread anyway.
You just have to decide for yourself if you want to catch bass off the beds if it is legal where you fish.