One things that’s amazing about early spring smallmouth bass is how quickly some of the fish in the population will move shallow. Al Lindner has found them up in shallow water as early as 4-5 days after ice-out. Obviously that has nothing to do with spawning, yet alas they are up there!
In the video above, Al and James Lindner are fishing an upper Midwest lake just twelve days after ice-out and they are catching some chunky early spring smallmouth in 3-6 feet of water. At the same exact time they are catching these fish, there’s still plenty of fish out in deep water that haven’t moved up yet. It’s important to remember that not all fish are doing the exact same things at the same time.
They could be catching deep water smallmouth out off the ledges on dropshots, roller jigs, hair jigs and tubes, but it’s kind of fun to catch them up shallow if you can!
The lake that Al and James are fishing is very cold with somewhat dirty water. In these conditions, the strike zone for early spring smallmouth bass can be fairly small. The perfect tactic for these situations is casting a small 1/16oz VMC Marabou Jig and swimming it slowly back to the boat.
If you happen to be fishing a lake with clearer water, that strike zone will naturally expand and you’ll be able to call fish in from further distances.
The feeding mood of all fish can change dramatically on a daily, weekly, and seasonal basis. For consistent success, your lure selection needs to be in tune with their feeding mood.
Slow and subtle was the ticket for James and Al as they target sluggish fish that were moving from deep wintering areas to shallow flats where they will eventually spawn in the coming weeks. Slow moving tubes, grubs and hair jigs are good options anytime you’re fishing for inactive smallmouths with a small strike zone.
For aggressive fish with a large strike zone, minnow baits like X-Raps, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and rattle baits come into play. Speed and erratic behavior is a great way to trigger strikes when fish are willing to move fast and far to feed.
Topwaters like X-Pops and X-Props have a time and place. For bottom bouncing in deep water, dropshotting and football heads are great options. Angling success throughout the season means experimenting with a wide variety of lures in different areas throughout the system. The key is reading the conditions and letting the fish tell you what they want.