When the ice comes off the lake (or the weather starts warming), Bass start thinking about one thing. FOOD. During the winter Largemouth have been holding to deep structures (deep holes, bases of deep drop-offs, or along deep shoreline points).
Shallow spawning bays will warm up before the rest of the lake, and this is exactly where you will find the bass once the water continues to warm.
A spawning bay will be protected from the wind and will have a dark bottom. These bays will warm up faster than the rest, especially if they are located on the NW portion of the lake. If you find a bay like this, it is likely that bass will spawn here. Look for old weeds from last year, new green weeds, rock piles or docks.
Start your search be trolling over top of the drop-offs that lead into the shallow bay. In a lot of cases, Bass will stage here until the shallows become warm enough, or the weather becomes stable enough (pressure systems). Focus on the inside turns of the drop-off or the transition between soft and hard bottom.
Why Bass are moving from their deep winter haunts and are looking for two things. Spawning grounds, and food. Bass prefer a dark bottomed shallow bay that is close to deep water in case of a cold front.
Bass don’t usually start thinking about spawning until close to the 50f. mark, but fish will still move into the shallows on warm days and soak up the sun. These shallow bays also attract small bait fish. the bass will be waiting until the bait fish move into the shallows, then they will ambush them.
Tactic When fishing deep, focus on the transitions between hard and soft bottom, inside turns, points or even the transition from a steep drop off to a gentle slope. Use a slow moving presentation for the deeper bass, such as a Texas rig, Carolina rig, a drop-shot, or just a lead jig (Tipped with a minnow). As the water continues to warm, look towards the mid-depth weed lines are also great places to fish.
When fishing the shallows, look for transition points. A transition point is any change from the norm. Some examples include a gap in the weeds, a change in weed type, rock to sand transition, a weed line, a rock pile or even the transition from shade to no shade. Focus on these areas to have the best luck.
At this time of the year, the water is still cold. Cold water means fish will still prefer a slow moving easy meal. Some great baits you can work slowly, and shallow are a Texas rig, a drop-shot rig, a weedless jig, or even a suspending jerk-bait. As the waters warm into the 50’s (f.), you can start to speed up your presentation with spinner baits, crank baits, and bladed jigs.