While the disappearance of the ice is celebratory, many anglers are now met with the challenge of finding bass in barren lands. In many parts of the north where lakes freeze over and offer Ice Fishing opportunities, temperatures still rise and fall; thus, periodically the snow will melt exposing the ice.
This is critical as the absence of snow allows sunlight penetration, which is essential to weed survival. But this does not always happen.
When the Snow Kills the Weeds
Where lakes have remained snow covered for a couple of months, scores of the best weedbeds will be missing from the lack of sun exposure this spring.
As these protective weeds died and decomposed under the ice, the small bluegill, perch, and sunfish, became exposed. Predators like bass, pike, and walleye have a feeding bonanza. Because of this, bass fishing can get difficult.
Early Spring Bass Fishing: Finesse Fishing
The fishing gets tough because with the abundance of easy prey, the bass and can afford to be picky. With so much prey available, they are less likely to be tricked by artificial lures. Because of the easy pickings, this can also create larger than average fish – they are fat! Now more than normal, a natural and finesse presentation becomes necessary.
Early Spring Bass Fishing: Baits
Few types of bait are more natural than a swimbait. Consider the forage on your favorite body of water: if bluegills are abundant, use a bluegill color scheme 3 or 4 inches in length. If perch outnumber the bluegill, go with a perch colored pattern. In water shallower than 5 feet deep, match it with a 1/8 ounce jighead. When deeper, increase it to a ¼ ounce. Exposed hooks increase hookup ratio, and with the absence of weeds, use an exposed hook.
If unsure of the dominant forage, green pumpkin works everywhere. If you are lucky enough to locate sparse vegetation, invest the time, because they are likely holding both prey and predator.
Early Spring Bass Fishing: Reel Slow
Swimbaits are simple to use. Cast it as far as possible and simply reel it in. Keep this in mind: the slower the better. Hold the rod at a 10 o’clock position and make sure a bow exists in your line between the rod tip and where the line enters the water. When a strike occurs, do not set the hook immediately; instead, wait until you feel the weight of the fish, then hammer it home.
When the fish makes the initial strike, it normally just has the tail in its mouth. Setting the hook too soon pulls it away from the fish. Using a quality hook with a keeper like a Thoraks will increase the longevity of the swimbait.
Early Spring Bass Fishing: The Monkey Punch and Erie Darter
Many crayfish hibernate through the winter but come out as soon as the ice melts. This adds to a predator’s menu and can become a preferred choice. Many crawdad imitators exist, but I prefer to use a compact version. Many years ago, Poor Boy’s Bait created the Erie Darter. It was created for smallmouth bass on Lake Erie, but is much more versatile. Today, I use a similar darter-style bait called a Monkey Punch by Lochness Lures. I choose the Punch because it has softer plastic and a longer tail. Not only is the tail longer, but also skinnier.
Like any plastic in cold temperatures, soft plastic lures can get brittle in cold water and lose action. Combat this by selecting the softest lures. This creates more action.
As the name suggests, the best action is to dart the bait along the bottom. Attach it to a leadhead jig. Like the swimbait, in water shallower than 5 feet, use a 1/8 ounce jighead; when deeper, use a ¼ ounce. Keeping the bait in contact with the bottom is necessary. I tie it to 8-pound fluorocarbon line on a 7’ Medium Action rod. The action of the rod not only allows me to dart it along the bottom slowly, but increases casting distance.
If the weeds and fish are difficult to find this spring, do not waste time getting frustrated. Instead, slow down and stay alert for a lunker.
Check out more from Andy Buss on his YouTube Channel.