Every angler looks forward to the day that the ice finally leaves their favorite body of water, with the anticipation of the first open water bite of the season.
And what’s not to look forward to? After a long winter, we finally get to pull the boat out of hibernation for the maiden voyage of the season and get after it.
For me, the first fish I typically target also happens to be my favorite...smallmouth bass. As soon as the ice goes, smallmouth can be found in their wintering holes and really strap on the feed bag in anticipation of their pending spawn. When you find one bass, there are typically many more and are very willing to bite.
The ice left Rainy Lake about 2 weeks ago and I would have loved to have been on the water sooner but thanks to Mother Nature and work, this past weekend was my first opportunity.
Mother Nature surely did not disappoint last weekend either as the daytime temperatures were only expected to be in the mid 50’s, night time lows in the lower 30’s and a nice East wind at 10-15 mph for good measure. The good news was there were a few sunny breaks, which was a nice.
We opted to wait for the temperature to rise, which meant an afternoon bite. It doesn’t matter how old I get, I still get excited for the first trip of the year. The boat was splashed, engine started without any issues and we slowly idled out of the bay while giving the engine sufficient time to warm up.
One tip when it comes to fishing during spring and fall...let the motor warm up longer than usual. My Bass Cat is equipped with Smart Craft gauges and I never put any power to the motor until the engine reaches a minimum of 125 degrees F. For those without a means of knowing engine temperatures, just let the motor warm up for a few minutes before taking off. A mistake here could cause a cold seize and that’s no fun and not to mention, expensive.
Smallmouth bass winter in deeper water and can be targeted on reefs or points, typically in 20-30 feet of water. The fish will remain at these locations until the water begins to warm, prompting them to migrate to the shallows to spawn. Once the water temperatures reach the 50’s, I will exclusively focus on shallow flats where the action can be hot.
As we motored to our first spot, I was immediately impressed with my new FXR M R1 Pro Laminate raingear which kept the elements at bay and myself toasty warm during the drive. The water temperature was in the upper 40’s and as we idled over an offshore reef topping out at 20 feet, several fish were instantly spotted on the electronics in 20-25 feet.
We caught several nice bass on Northland Slurp jigs tipped with minnow baits, Northland Slurp tubes and black marabou jigs. I like to drop to specific fish spotted on the bow mount graph and coax them to bite similar to fishing with a flasher in winter. The fish were somewhat negative, but a black 1/8 oz tungsten marabou jig boated several fussy bass in short order. If I didn’t know the fish were there, I’m sure I would have missed many bites. The key to success was watching the fish approach the jig on the graph and test the jig every so often for added weight. Added weight was all I felt on every fish including a nice 4 pounder.
Although we caught several fish over the course of the weekend, the fish were not on every spot and the size was a bit smaller than expected with the exception of that one 4 pounder. I think that the fish are in transition to the shallows and some really good fishing can be expected once we get some consistently warm weather.
Hope all the mothers have a fabulous Mother’s Day weekend
Play safe and see you on the water