In many regions, bronzeback action starts in early April as smallmouth begin migrating from deep water into the shallower spawning areas, eventually settling near the rocky and sandy flats near the shore or the streams of major tributaries. You’ll want to probe any humps, points, and breaklines in the area, sticking near between 15 and 20 feet deep. You may find them deeper or shallower, but between 15 and 20 feet is a good depth to start with. When you locate a group of smallies, either maintain position with your electric motor or carefully lower an anchor to hold your position. If there are fish there, odds are you’ll pull in several after repeated casts.
On a main lake, you’re approach will need to be a little different, since big smallies in large waters tend to be more spread out. As the season progresses, they’ll eventually show up on main shoreline points and breaklines, but during early Spring, you’ll want to stay on the move. You can use a depth-finder to locate wandering fish, but this can be hit or miss. The best tactic is to drift deep flats at depths between 20 to 35 feet. Be sure to have a good drift sock on board to slow your boat in a stiff breeze, which you’re likely to encounter on open water.
This time of year, smallmouths have little interest in lures that move fast or swim high in the water column. For this reason, go with a presentation that slowly bumps and grinds the bottom. With water temperatures in the 40s, three basic baits are where you’ll want to start: a tube jig, a blade bait, and a jigging spoon.
With tubes, pull them slowly while maintaining contact with the bottom. Strikes in this case will range from typical largemouth taps to a sluggish feeling on the end of your line. Chrome or gold blades are great producers, and all you need to do is cast the blade out, let it find the bottom, take up the slack, and lift it just inches off the bottom until you feel it vibrate. With a jigging spoon, cast the spoon out and let it sink to the bottom, then start shaking the rod tip lightly to make the spoon dance a little bit, but not enough so it jumps off the bottom. Then, pause and wait for a bass to pick it up off the bottom. If you don’t get a strike on the first few tries, try dragging or slow rolling the spoon along the bottom for couple feet, much like dragging a tube. When you pause, shake the spoon again. Repeat the shake, pause, and drag pattern all the way to the boat.
Keep today’s tips in mind if you’re on the hunt for fighting bronzebacks early this season. Be sure to come back for more early Spring tips for your favorite fish!