Smallmouth bass have been a favorite backyard game fish for American anglers for many years. They offer aggressive takes, bullish fights and are typically easy to fool on the fly. The early spring can be the best time for you to chase them as they fatten up before their spawn that happens later on in the season. This is the best time window to maximize your shots at bigger fish and get into some fat small jaws, so here are our top 3 tips for chasing early spring smallmouth bass:
Start in the Deep Holes
Smallmouth Bass tend to hold in deep holes during the winter in large schools. They do this to protect themselves from predators and to get to the more stable water on the bottom. One mantra many winter and spring smallmouth anglers hold to is “Low and Slow” all this means is that you need to slow your retrieve down and make sure your flies are in the bottom half of the water column. To do this either use heavier weighted flies (like a slump buster) or fish using a sink-tip line, if you’re fishing in a river I recommend using a stripping basket as it will save your sinking line from getting wrapped around rocks in the current.
Next, Check Out Shallow Flats and Riffles
Depending on your latitude and climate, your smallies may already be getting in the spawning mood. My next stop after fishing deep holes is always the shallows up and downstream of it. As the water begins to warm up, the bass will start to move into the shallows and begin jostling for nesting areas. Just be cautious and do not fish if you see bass paired up over beds, leave those ones alone so they can get to their business of making more smallies.
The Magic 50-Degree Mark
Springtime can be a rollercoaster of weather, you can get a warm sunny day followed by near freezing temps. The fish are aware of these fluctuations and feed accordingly. I have found that once the water is above 50 degrees, the smallies get on the move and start hunting for food and a nest. So carry a stream thermometer and take the water temp, if it's below 50, stick to the low and slow mantra, if it's higher than 50, start looking for the fish on the move in the shallows.
Keep At It Until the Bite Starts
When smallmouth kick into gear you will know. You'll start getting hits right off the bat if they are there. So stop by your favorite spots a few times a week for little outings until you start to get a consistent bite, then as soon as you know they're on the feed, you can get after 'em!