Water Temperature Passing 40f: This is an exhilarating time of the year for Smallmouth anglers. During the winter months, Smallmouth vacate the shallows and head for the warmer (deeper) water.
As spring comes around and the water temperatures reach the 40f mark, you can expect Smallies to start moving toward the drop-offs that lead into long extending shallow flats.
They will stage on these drop-offs until the water temperature reaches around 50f. Usually, the section of the lake that warms up first is in the North/Northwest portion of the lake.
Water Temperature Passing 50f: At this point, the Smallies have already begun staging on the base of a drop-off leading into the shallows. When the water temperature rises past the 50f mark, Smallmouth will enter the shallows and start getting ready for the spawn.
Some key things to look for when looking for spawning flats are, slowly tapering flats that lead to a steep drop-off, dark bottom, sandy bottom composition, and sparse cover, such as fallen trees, rocks, or weed clumps.
Why During the early spring season, Smallmouth can sense that the water temperature is rising. Not only Smallmouth will head to the shallows, in fact, most species also make the same migration. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that most of the bait fish are heading to the shallows, and the second reason is that most species of fish prefer temperatures that are in the mid 50f to mid 60f range. Since the shallow bays warm up first, most fish will be there.
Once the Smallmouth migrate into the shallows, they will be looking to feed heavily to bulk up and get the energy to spawn. They will also be looking for cover where they can make a spawning bed. These beds will look like a circle on the bottom of the lake.
Tactic When the water temperature is still in the 40's (f.) start your search by trolling the steep break lines that lead onto the shallow flats (mentioned in "Where").
Troll these break lines while looking at your sonar. Some key holding places are, inside turns, transitions from hard to soft bottom, steep break lines, and points. Some great tackle to use are jigs, Texas rigged worms, Carolina rigs, and wacky worms. Use a lure that can get to the fish, while keeping contact with the bottom.
Once the water temperature reaches the 50's (f.) and the Smallmouth start entering the shallows, anglers need to change their tactic.
When fishing shallows, it is important to focus on transitions. A transition is any change. Some examples of these transitions are random weed patches along a sandy flat, rock piles, weed lines, a change between hard and soft bottom, a gap in between a weed bed, or even a change in the type of weeds in a weed bed (Lilly pads changing to Reeds).
When fishing these shallow spots, use a fast moving bait, this way you can cover a lot of ground and find the most active fish. Use a spinner bait, top water bait, suspending jerk bait, or even a weedless jig.