Flat water in a pale morning mild. Brisk however calm. Golden brown our bodies ghosting beneath the floor over sand and rock. A strike. She boils on high, then races towards the break adopted by 4 or 5 brethren.

That is spring bass fishing “up right here.” On the Nice Lakes and the pure lakes of the North Nation, shallow bass rule prespawn hunts. We might fish them deeper, however why? Cannot see them. Cannot watch them struggle all the best way again to the boat. Not as lively off the breaks. Clearly I am prejudiced, so I requested just a few specialists to assist decide high prespawn ways.

Hair Jigs

It is honest to start out with a hair jig. Proper after the ice goes off, a bucktail jig has been catching smallmouths for me for the reason that early Seventies. Many anglers might not keep in mind the Nature Jigs from Mister Tornado—stand-up heads with cumbersome bucktail our bodies. I tipped the 1/4-ounce jigs with skinny black pork strips from Uncle Josh and dragged them slowly alongside backside. The jig I take advantage of right this moment has developed right into a glossy, sparsely-tied, 1/16- to three/32-ounce model that also is black. It is tied by Paul Jensen of Jensen Jigs. We have described this tactic up to now. It requires an extended, medium-light-power rod, just like the St. Croix Avid 8-foot AVS80ML and a large-spool reel just like the Shimano Stella STLC2000SFI spooled with 6- to 8-pound braid or 4-pound mono. The jig is never tipped with something, and the thought is to retrieve it so slowly it nearly suspends, hardly ever touching backside.


On the identical time, from proper after ice-out till bass spawn, suspending baits proceed to be a “common solvent” for smallmouths all over the place. I’ve employed In-Fisherman Area Editor Gord Pyzer’s “painfully protracted Pyzer pause” from Pickwick to Wet Lake for years throughout spring, and gained some critical money doing it. “The very first bait I attempt for prespawn smallmouths is a jerkbait,” Pyzer says. “often a Rapala X-Rap. The important thing, particularly instantly after the ice goes off, is the pause. In-Fisherman Editor In Chief Doug Stange coined the ‘painfully protracted pause’ time period as we filmed a TV phase on Wet Lake a number of years again. He admits I crushed him that day as a result of he could not deliver himself to pause lengthy sufficient. There isn’t any such factor as too lengthy. I might solid out, jerk it a time or two, then pause for a minimum of a minute. Some anglers inform you they’re pausing for 30 or 45 seconds, but when they timed themselves they’d understand it is extra like 10 or 20 seconds.”

We use comparable sort out and ways. I like a 7-foot 4-inch G. Loomis Bronzeback Collection SMR 882S-SP with a large-spool reel with loads of line capability, just like the Shimano Sahara sequence—wanted when a rogue brown trout, salmon, muskie, or steelhead rams your Fortunate Craft Pointer and takes off. The reel is spooled with 8- to 10-pound Berkley FireLine with a 5-foot chief of 10-pound fluorocarbon tied in with back-to-back uni-knots. My rule of thumb with early-season jerks is to solid, pull the lure all the way down to its operating depth, then set the rod down and eat a snack. Decide the rod again up and barely, nearly imperceptibly, twitch it.


“One thing a few jerkbait hanging within the higher third of the water column, doing nothing, drives smallmouths loopy—particularly in chilly, clear water,” Pyzer says. “Typically they hit it on the pause, however extra usually they whack it on the subsequent twitch.”

Information Mike Karempelis, proprietor of Walleyes And Extra, LLC, is a jerkbait believer, too. “On Inexperienced Bay, a Fortunate Craft Pointer is the primary lure I attempt in spring,” he says. “Suspending jerks are greatest when the water is obvious, and within the mid-40s to about 57°F. If fish have pulled out a bit, suspending baits shine within the 10- to 12-foot vary. Very early in a chilly spring, you discover fish suspended off spawning areas at instances. In any other case, we solely look shallow, lower than 10 toes on most days. That is the place smallmouths are most lively throughout prespawn.”

Karempelis additionally favors 10-pound FireLine with a 10-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon chief. “The chief helps round zebra mussels,” he says. “And we’re coping with extra pike today. Work it slowly with lengthy pauses, letting it settle. Bites are delicate. It is essential for the lure to droop in a horizontal place. Watch the road, be sure the lure would not rise or sink. I believe it is a massive factor—having it sit horizontally as a substitute of nose-down or tail-down. A nose-down lure that pops again up after a pause appears to work greatest in hotter water throughout summer time. The much less occurring with the lure in chilly water the higher.”



After the hair-jig and jerkbait days fade with warming water, I usually depend on 1/16- to 1/8-ounce jig-grub or jig-worm combos. “The jig-grub continues to place extra bass within the boat for me for some purpose,” Pyzer says. “A easy 4-inch Yamamoto grub has fallen out of favor with loads of anglers, but it surely’s nonetheless lethal, much more so now that it is now not the flavour of the month. It comes into its personal when smallies shift from the main-lake constructions they first come up on and transfer onto shallow flats near spawning areas. I all the time put the grub on with the tail-down, hook level up so it would not intervene with the hook when a fish bites and also you set. The only ‘do nothing’ retrieve works greatest. Neglect in regards to the erratic jerks, hops, jumps, and bumps. Merely solid it out, let it settle to the underside, and swim it again at a leisurely tempo.”

By now, anyone who has ever picked up In-Fisherman journal is aware of I like a Gopher Sort out Mushroom Head Jig tipped with a Kalin’s Grub. The jig-worm, nonetheless, is a distinct animal. It’s important to ask a smallmouth why, however they generally eat it once they will not eat a jig-grub and vice-versa. Personally, the jig-worm has developed by means of incarnations involving the Persuader Curly Tail to the Berkley 4-inch PowerBait Worm to Case Plastic Ring Worms and now to a hybridized swimbait/ring worm, the Berkley Havoc Beat Shad designed by Mike Iaconelli. All these types work, however—as all the time—the “new factor” shines each spring. Similar tactic, identical 1/16- to 1/8-ounce heads with the identical sort out used for hair jigs and grubs—4- to 6-pound Maxima Ultragreen on a 7-foot G. Loomis Bronzeback Collection spinning rod. Pyzer’s description of the retrieve is lifeless on.


Enter Z-Man

Karempelis (that heretic) has partly deserted the jig-grub—expelling it from his top-five decisions—for the Ned Rig, composed of Z-Man’s Finesse TRD or cut-down ZinkerZ on a Z-Man ShroomZ jighead. “Jigs and grubs are one other for-sure method, however so many individuals use them now that we attempt to discover one thing new,” he says. “The Ned Rig has been phenomenal. Easiest lure you will ever fish. I like a 3-incher on a ShroomZ head of 1/10- or 1/6-ounce. That jig stands the stubby, tapering plastic vertically on backside on a pause, which is vital. It has a spiral drop. Drag it, pop it up sometimes, and fish it like a tube—easy. It is phenomenal within the 5- to 10-foot zone. No query in my thoughts it resembles a goby or sculpin.”

Tubes & Sticks

That outdated stand-by—the tube—is one other Karempelis favourite with purchasers because the water approaches spawning temperature, round 58°F. “It is a completely different tackle the identical factor,” he says. “I take advantage of a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce insert jig and drag it on backside. In summer time we fish it like a jerkbait, snapping it or strolling the canine. However in spring we drag it. Useless-sticking tubes might be lethal, you probably have the persistence. Works with the Ned Rig, too. Typically they need it mendacity on backside, not transferring in any respect. They stare at it, however particularly in spring, they finally ease over and slurp it up. It is higher to be too gradual than too quick in spring.

Get Bit Tubes provide one thing slightly completely different—one thing they have not seen that provides motion at gradual speeds. “I like fatter tubes that imitate gobies higher, however you must experiment extra with tube shapes, colours, lengths, and types than with different lures. Typically longer, thinner tubes garner extra strikes. The autumn is completely different, the profile is completely different. Most days, we begin with Get Bit or Berkley PowerBait Tubes.”


Karempelis fishes a wacky-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senko when the water warms into the mid- to high-50°F vary. “In massive our bodies of water we’ve got bass in numerous phases at that time,” he says. “Some fish could also be spawning in water that warms earliest within the again finish of bays. However out across the islands, smallmouths is likely to be in early prespawn part.

“I take advantage of the Gamakatsu Micro Huge Hole Hook in 2/0 to three/0. It has a shorter shank, and its compact form will get all the best way of their mouth for strong hook-sets. The purpose is bent again towards the shaft, creating an inclination to get into the nook of their mouth. The hookup proportion is great. Usually Senkos are resting on the underside when bass eat them and the Huge Hole finds fewer rocks. And it is a mild hook that works higher on this weightless state of affairs. The slower the autumn, the higher in spring. I need it within the strike zone, doing its factor so long as attainable. I see guys utilizing weighted hooks and that is nuts. Bass flip to research once they hear a lure hit the water and also you need it to nonetheless be falling, not resting on backside.”

Pyzer additionally locations the tube in his top-five, however fishes it extra usually throughout late prespawn than early. “The tube is extra of an up-down-drag presentation versus the horizontal method of jerks, grubs, and swimbaits,” he says. “It provides dimension to the arsenal. I like a tube as soon as I’ve discovered a focus of bass, staging, say, off an underwater level, locked onto a reasonably small space. It is often the final bait I throw to a spot once I’ve fished different lures and need to catch one or two final fish. Right here in Canada, smallmouths are locked onto baitfish extra at ice-out slightly than crayfish, so horizontal lures work greatest early.”


Pyzer was tutored on a extra distinctive spring tactic by California professional Aaron Martens. A drop-shot-worm tactic works effectively as soon as smallies are pegged shallow, from mid- to late prespawn. Rig with a 4- to 5-inch Robo-style worm. Solid, let it settle, and bounce it. Shake the worm, not the load, nearly like dribbling a basketball. The hot button is to place the drop-shot hook solely 2 to 4 inches from the load. “It is a key tactic when smallmouths are in knee-deep or shallower water. Superb how effectively it really works,” he provides.

Shallow-­operating crankbaits are one other Karempelis favourite earlier than the spawn. “We fish them throughout late prespawn on windy, uneven days when bass are in 6 toes or much less round boulders and rock outcroppings,” he says. “That is once we first make contact with the late spawners that are available from deep, main-lake wintering spots. We crack a shallow runner off rocks at a very good clip, then cease it for a second or two, letting it float again up, then begin once more. It retains cranks from lodging in rocks and in addition triggers a response. Bass hear it bounce off rocks and are available over to research. If the retrieve is fixed it is gone by the point they get there and also you lose extra lures. Pure crayfish patterns appear to work greatest in clear water. Baitfish patterns by no means work as effectively.”

Lastly, Pyzer favors swimbaits late within the Prespawn Interval. “I like throwing a 4- to 5-inch swimbait, like a Bass Magnet Shift ‘R Shad, X-Zone Swammer, or Keitech swimbait on a jighead—fishing it precisely the identical method because the jig-grub combo. Greatest smallie swimbaits are the slimmest fashions. When the water is super-cold after ice-out, I retrieve simply quick sufficient so the tail is kicking. Because the water warms, I decide up pace, however by no means ripping or reeling quick. It is particularly efficient shallow round final yr’s lifeless pencil reeds.”

Wherever you chase bass, these 10 choices preserve you setting hooks from ice-out till smallmouths start to spawn. As a result of nothing says spring like a pack of excited bronzebacks following a hooked bass to the boat.

*In-Fisherman Area Editor Matt Straw, Brainerd, Minnesota, is a season-long smallmouth bass chaser. He repeatedly contributes to In-Fisherman publications.

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