Ice off smallmouth is my favorite time of year! The big piggies are swimming around, and it is one of the best times to catch them! Everyone has a different way they like to fish for them; however, here is my approach. We will discuss Structure, Baits, Technique, Weather, and boat placement when catch smallmouth bass. 

Weather Matters for Spring Smallmouth Fishing

Weather is such a big factor in the spring. You may have ice, high water, tones of current from high water, Cold temps, and new structure. In the river, you get ice that forms ice gorges. Ice gorges are a mass of ice that has piled on top of one another, making a big solid piece. When these pieces get pushed down the river, they rip and tear and disturb everything in its path. This causes trees, rocks, sand, and other structures to get moved around. You have to have your head on a swivel navigating a river you may think you know inside out because of this. A new stump may be in your route that you normally take. Or your 5ft hole you pass through is now one foot because it filled in with sand. These are all things that will play a big factor in your spring success. 

Fishing Gear Choices

In the spring, the water is usually crystal clear, so I like to throw 6-12lb Vicious 100% Fluoro Carbon as my main line, and I use 20 yards of Vicious standard green braid 30lb test as my backing so I don't fill my whole spool up with Fluro Carbon. I run this line on a variety of Piscifun reels. My Lite line 6lb-8lb. I run on a 3000 series Piscifun Flame Spinning Reel paired with a Piscifun Serpent Spinning Rod one piece. On my heavier line, I run Piscifun Flame Spinning reel ten bearings mega in the 5000 series. Paired on a 7'2 M/L Custom Big Bear Spinning rod. Last, I ran a 12lb test on my Piscifun Torrent Baitcasting reel in 7:1 and 5:3 gear Ratios paired on an 8ft M/L Big Bear Custom Rod. It is very important to have the right rod and reel set up for each application. 

Steve McClone holds the smallmouth bass in his hand

Technique to Choose Smallmouth Bass Lures

With cold water, there is only a hand full of baits that I use early in the season. Hair jigs, Jerk baits, Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, Flies, and Plastics. When the water temp is 35-45 degrees, I throw primarily only Hair Jigs and Flies. I run a 1/8,1/4, and 1/2 ounce, all depending on the depth and current. Stronger current, I use heavier baits. Black, White, Green, and Brown color hair jigs work best. Let the fish tell you what they want to bite. By this I mean pay attention to your retrieve. Did you drag it, yo-yo it, hop it, dead stick it and let the current just take it, or swim it? Many ways to work them.

Use what is best producing that day. Fly applications: I like to do a drop-stop style with a fly tied to a swivel. Tie your fly to a swivel and put one and ½ feet of line on the swivel to your fly of choice. I like to make homemade flies with white and brown deer hair. 2 inches long on a long strait shank Owner hook. Put a bobber stop on your line, a small bead, the swivel, then another bead, and then a bobber stop. Then, run your line down to ½ one weight and tie the line to the weight. Adjust the bobber stop gap to give you however much freedom you want the swivel to go up and down the line. This allows the fly to move up and down in the water column. 

Boat Placement When Smallmouth Fishing

If I'm fishing in 4 feet of water, I like to run my bobber stops at 1ft and 2ft, giving me a 1ft slide on the swivel. This keeps the fly in the middle of the water column. When fishing it, drag the weight and then pause for 5 seconds and repeat any did weight or slight tick of the line to set the hook! Focus on the edge of current breaks and slack water for best success! Try fishing this bait, pulling towards the current. If you have lots of rocks, use lighter weights and jigs, and it will help with not getting snagged as much! 

the fisherman holds the smallmouth bass in his hand

Match Water Temperature and Baits

Once the water hits over 45 degrees, I start using crankbaits, jerk baits, and spinnerbaits. I like power fishing at that time covering a lot of water. When I find a fish there usually is a school of them there. Then, I pick the area apart after power fishing in that area. Come back through and fish your jig and fly. You will pick up a few more fish. I love throwing Moonpie Outdoors, Custom Crankbaits, and Bassinovia Jigs! All natural colors, shade colors, and Reds, along with White and Chartreuse.

Once the water hits over 55 degrees, I start mixing in plastics. I like to throw Bizz baits, Ned Baby Bizz bug, and the Ned Dizzy. Paired on an Owner hooks block head offset jig head. Great sharp hook that you can make your bait weedless and snag-free. Fish these baits on docks, rock piles, and wood.

The fish will start being more aggressive and feeding for the pre-spawn. I will also start throwing small swimbaits as well. Try to stay to natural colors on the swimbaits. Otherwise, I like PB and J and black and blue for other plastics. Toy around with your color choice; it changes daily! 

the fisherman holds the smallmouth bass by his hands


Besides having the right gear, boat placement is the most important factor. Try to position your boat to set up the presentation you're using best! Fishing the fly be up current and throw down current and bring back to the boat. This will make the fly dance and drag away from you. This makes for much easier hook-set percentages. Power fishing, try to throw your bait to come with the current. Fish will feed facing the current. The last thing to remember in the spring is if you're not getting any bites. Slow down your presentation; you're fishing too fast!!!

Good Luck out there!


Steve McClone

Steve McClone

Steve McCleon is a Professional Hunting and Fishing Guide at Moonpie Outdoors Guide Service.



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March 13, 2024 — Steve McClone
Tags: Fishing Tips

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