Largemouth bass return to the shallows during the brief transition period between the end of the cold-water season and the beginning of spring. The frigid water warms just enough to release spring bass from their winter sanctuaries. But these fish, seemingly afraid of their own shadows, are no easy catch.
Rod: 6 1/2- to 7-foot spinning rod.
Reel: spinning reel with a long-cast spool.
Line: 8- or 10-pound-test limp mono.
Baits for early season should be small and subtle. Rig a 3-inch tube bait or 4-inch plastic worm on a light-wire hook and small bullet sinker or a 1/16-ounce jighead. Keep hook points needle sharp to ensure a solid hookset with light tackle.
Bass in lakes move into backwaters as soon as the ice leaves. But not all bays are created equal. Bass often hold in less than a foot of water, though some of the water in the bay should be at least 3 feet deep to provide sanctuary from predators and changing water temperatures. Since northwest winds are prevalent during spring, bays on the northwest side of the lake tend to warm first. Bays with a broad mouth also warm quickly, but lose their warmth if shifting winds push the surface layer into the main lake. Bays separated from the lake by a narrow channel retain their warmth from day to day and often hold more bass.
Some reservoirs offer the same features that draw ice-out bass in lakes. The upstream end of an impoundment is usually shallower and subject to higher flows, so ice leaves earlier. Creek arms with little running water, especially those oriented in a northwesterly direction, also warm faster than main-reservoir areas. Bass move into the dead grass in these areas and behave much like fish in natural lakes. Fallen trees and other shoreline cover may look attractive, but in most sections of the reservoir, they lie in water too deep and cold to attract early season bass.