Ice Out Smallmouth Bass

Ice Out Smallmouth Bass: Jerk-trolling Rapala Shadow Rap Deep jerkbaits is one of the best options for catching smallmouth in ultra-cold water. Watch Al and Troy Lindner on this ice-out fishing expedition for smallies.


Ice out bass fishing is popular among anglers, especially those looking to catch smallmouth bass. Smallmouth bass live under the ice in a North country for much of the year. These overwintering locations are generally deeper, bolder flats in depths from 20 to 30 feet of water. Sometimes, these wintering holes may hold monstrous schools of big brown bass.

When the ice finally melts in the spring, the first shallow movement revolves around two critical factors that bass need: warmth and food. 

The best Spring areas are often expansive rock and gravel flats around 4 to 8 feet deep, the same flats where they’ll eventually spawn.

Now keep in mind that not all fish do the same thing simultaneously. They move a lot, and I mean a lot, based on any changing environmental conditions. For example, if you have three stable warm days, expect lots of fish to move up into these Flats quickly, but during a spring cold front, smallmouths will move and can often be found staging along the perimeter of the flat, saying 10 to 15 feet of water.

One good point to remember is that these fish tend to be aggressive during this first shallow movement day in and day out. Horizontal lures like jerkbaits and finesse swim baits tend to shine.

Baits for Cold Water Fishing

When the water temps are in the low 40 to 50-degree range, three top choices are suspending jerkbaits, finesse swimbaits, and hair jigs. Remember that because of the cold water temperatures, these fish are somewhat lethargic but are still more than willing to bite. The key to getting bit is to get a bait moving slowly at their level. 

When ice out bass fishing, having the right gear and lures is essential. Anglers should have horizontal running lures that can be fished up on the flat, on the edge, and slightly off the break. Popular baits for this time of year include jerkbaits, boot tails, and hair jigs.

The Rapala X Rap is a known producer, especially if the fish are up on a flat in that four to eight-foot range. Next, the key is figuring out how long to pause the bait with water in the low 40s; you may have to let that bait sit for four to five seconds and let the Hackle teaser tail entice sluggish fish into striking.

Secondly, we use a lot of Big Bite Baits in a 3.5 Suicide Shad rigged with a light jig head can be deadly. The beauty of this swim bait is you can fish it from the shallows to the deep depending on your retrieve speed.

Jig weight is significant; we like to use the light 1/16 and 1/8 ounce VMC Finesse Half Moon Jig, which lets you slow down the bait and roll it along just right. Big Bite has an incredible selection of lifelike color patterns, which can make a big difference when the fish are finicky.

Third the VMC Dominator Marabou Jig can be a silent killer. A simple do-nothing horizontal retrieve can sometimes outproduce every other bait at the start of the fishing season. Cast it out, let it sink two or three feet near the bottom, then simply reel it steady and slow back.

Finally, the Shadow Rap Deep is a money bait when those fish are off the flat in a 10 to 15-foot range. We often make a long cast off the back of the boat, get the Minn Kota on at about 30 percent, and Simply Jerk troll along the Deep brake line.

Reels should be lightweight and have a good drag system, such as the Daiwa Kage MQLT 2500 series. Rods should be the Legend Tournament Series from St Croix, which is 6′ 8″, medium power, extra fast and great for jerkbait fishing.

Techniques and Tactics

When fishing for ice out bass, anglers should use spot lock to make subtle adjustments and keep the boat quiet. It is also essential to have a good pair of sunglasses, like Wavy Labels, to help spot mats of weeds, boulders, and spots on the spot.

When fishing shallow water, anglers should cast off the back or side of the boat and reel it in nice and slow.  When fishing deeper water, anglers should use a Shadow Raps with pure straight fluorocarbon and pause for longer, which will help get the bait deeper and into the strike zone.


Cold-water fishing can be challenging, but you can still catch some big bass with the right lures and techniques. Suspending jerkbaits, finesse swimbaits, and hair jigs are all great options for cold-water fishing. Remember to let your bait sit for a few seconds and to keep your retrieve slow and steady. 

You can catch some big bass in cold water with the right lures and techniques. Ice-out bass fishing is a great way to get out on the water and catch some smallmouth bass. With the right gear, lures, and the proper techniques and tactics, anglers can catch these fish successfully. 

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