It looks like winter is finally departing and spring slowly making an appearance. For those of us who fish, and occasionally catch fish, this means that the water will finally begin to warm and the fish begin to move shallow looking for spawning areas, providing a chance at a few easy meals with the ice gone.

This is the time for my favorite, the smallmouth bass, to begin their spawning moves from the deep winter haunts to the shallow spawning areas on our lakes. As water temperatures move to the mid-40 degree range the males will move shallow looking for suitable spawning areas that will be 4 to 5 feet in shallow lakes, and in deeper lakes like Lake Geneva will be 5 to 12 feet. The females will follow looking for a mate when the water warms to the mid-50 degree range.

This time of year gives the angler the best chance to hook up with the fish of a lifetime because the largest fish are roaming the shallows and are hungry after the long winter. When I fish this time of year my bait of choice will be a 3½” tube with a ¼ oz jig and exposed hook. The reason I like this bait is that it really acts and looks like the smallmouth’s favorite meal, a crayfish or (on the Great Lakes) a goby. Color selection should match those natural baits; I prefer a pumpkin with a red flake tube, or a motor oil with green and red flakes. Make long casts along the outside edges of the shallow flats working the tube with slow, short lifts keeping the tube at or near the bottom. When the strikes come be sure to set that hook and don’t be shy.

This year is going to be a late spawn because of the long cold winter. We should have been into the spawn already, but with reports from the area lakes it’s not surprising they are still pretty cool and the spawn will probably not occur until next month. Some of the water temps in the area are Lake Geneva, 38-42 degrees; Chain of Lakes, 47 degrees; and Illinois River, 48 degrees. Patience will be the watchword for a few weeks.

Until next time…keep a tight line.

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