WILD HARVEST: Ice Out Boreal Bass

My lure shone white against the dark water and I could keep track of its every twitch or pause through my polarized glasses. A sudden flash of bronze and I saw it scream sideways as the rod came to life in my hands! It was my first cast beyond a favourite rocky reef, and the long pause upon the lure hitting this water duped the feisty, yet finicky, predator. Eastern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario’s countless boreal lakes offer anglers endless spring smallmouth bass fishing opportunities and no closed season. May is a great time. It feels good getting back out on the water after a long winter, and spring arguably offers some of the best all year. I absolutely love it!



Get on the bass

Targeting the right locations as the season progresses helps you consistently stay on the fish. My first spring ventures often find me on a favourite lake near what I suspect to be the overwintering areas, typically near where I left off fishing in the fall. Of all the structure, I would say humps produce the most fish for me, particularly in about 20 to 40 feet of water. If these areas happen to be near where I catch smallmouth throughout the summer, then I’m more confident the fish will be there.

Start the season off in deeper water, with a slower presentation just off bottom. Water temperatures are still cold and the bass are relatively lethargic. Work any humps or sunken points with a three to four-inch long, relatively natural coloured tube jig. What I may lack in covering water with a jig, I make up for by hunting larger areas with electronics. Once any big arcs become located, I try to get as close to them as possible, twitching a tube jig between long pauses. It won’t take long to know if you are doing things right.



Stay on the bass

As spring progresses and things heat up, so does the fishing action. Bass begin feeding closer to the surface and more aggressively, at which point I change my presentation and switch to crankbaits.

Shallower structure like reefs, emerging cabbage flats or deep rocky shorelines with overhanging trees have produced fat spring bronzebacks for me. I find they are finicky, however, and spook easy in shallow water or near the surface. Your first cast will often be your best at each location. I also find big bass usually only give you one chance. Drift or motor too close and you’ll scatter them. Get as tight as you can to cover, but a snag will scatter them. Miss the first strike and you’ll likely scatter the rest… see what I’m getting at with this?

Creep into your spots and make long, accurate casts at each of the best-looking locations; cover as much productive, pre-scouted water as possible. Like with early season tube jigging, long pauses can be lethal this time of year and account for the bulk of your strikes. Once my lure hits the water, I will jerk it several times erratically, then let it sit from five to over 30 seconds at a time – hence the value of a long casting, neutrally suspending crankbait. Repeat with a second pause mid-cast, then retrieve the final approach with increasing speed, helping prompt any following fish.

Get out this spring and try your hand at some ice-out boreal bass’n. Bring some crankbaits to the cottage this May long weekend!

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