There’s nothing more exciting to northern bass anglers than the sight of ice rapidly melting from the local lake or river… It means that spring has finally come, and with it comes the itch to dust off the rods and get out on the water for some ice out bass.
As great as early spring fishing trips are for the spirit (after being cooped up all winter), they can actually be pretty tough fishing. Ice-out water is cold, and the bass are often lethargic and hard to find.
To help, we’ve put together this list of ideal ice out bass locations. Once you finally get out on the water this spring – be sure to look for them on your local lake.
In order to catch ice-out bass, you’ve got to be around them. It makes sense to focus on areas where they spend their winters, as they probably won’t have moved very far. Marinas are perfect places to start, as many bass overwinter in them. Marinas offer deeper water, are protected from current, and congregate baitfish during the winter. Try slow crawling a jig or plastic along rocky marina banks, docks, and any other structure in the water. Emergent wood and docks hold heat, and early spring bass hang nearby to warm up.
2. Shallow, Muddy Bottoms
In shallow, weedy northern lakes, bass will move to the backs of bays and coves in extremely shallow water as the ice comes off. Areas with dark, muddy bottoms will warm up fastest, and thus concentrate the most active ice out bass. The water is usually clear, so you can often cover water and just look for fish as you go along. Try slow winding a spinnerbait, swim jig, or lipless crank through these areas while looking for cruising ice out bass.
3. South Facing Banks
On reservoirs without a lot of really shallow cover, ice out bass will migrate to the warmest areas available to them. South facing slopes get the most spring sunshine, and will usually be a couple degrees warmer than the main lake. These are the areas to spend the most time. Try fishing a jig or jerkbait around steeper south facing slopes, and pay attention to the presence of baitfish.