Top 5 Ice Out Baits for Bass
It is a much-anticipated time of the year for many bass anglers, the ice is gone, spring is in the air, and it’s time to get the boat or kayak in the water. With a lid over the fish’s heads for a few months, it is time for their natural migration to begin after a long winter. Approaching 40-to-50-degree water temps, ice out conditions can be intimidating but rewarding. The bass are ready to feed, and we are all anxious to get on the water and wet a line, but where do you begin, and what baits do you approach with?
A jerkbait is a tried-and-true cold-water bait that thrives because of its suspending and darting action. Great for targeting fish suspended in the water column around grass flats, submerged cover, and wherever baitfish may be present. Its versatility and ability to be fished slow and methodically this time of year will trigger bites. Making long casts with a few short twitches followed by long pauses varying from 5-20 seconds, sometimes even longer. A general rule is the colder the water, the longer the pause. As temperatures rise, slowly get more aggressive with your cadence as the fish adapt to the changing conditions. The Megabass Vision 110 is one of the most popular jerkbaits on the market for good reason. Its life-like action comes in various colors and sizes that allow you to adjust to the depth and watercolor that will match the hatch to trigger bites.
There is never a bad time of the year to throw a finesse jig. A bait that can easily be fished around almost all types of cover and structure that allows you to fish slowly and thoroughly. A compact bite-sized jig that can range from 3/16oz up to 1/4 oz is a great starting point because of its slow rate of fall and subtle action as it is paired with a compact trailer. When the water is cold, fish still congregate to cover such as laydowns, docks, and rock structures as they absorb heat and attract bait. Just because they can’t be fished as aggressively in the spring doesn’t mean the fish won't bite. Staying back from the cover and casting a finesse jig, and slowly working in and around cover is a great way to get the attention of lethargic fish. A great bait to fish deep and shallow as the conditions change through the thawing process.
The ned rig may look basic and innocent but don’t be fooled this is a fantastic bait that gets bites no matter where and what time of year. There doesn’t have to be a lot of flash and flair when fishing a ned rig. Sometimes doing nothing is its best feature. A mushroom-style jig head ranging in finesse sizes of 1/20oz, 1/10oz up to 1/5oz, paired with a 3in Z-Man Finesse TRD is a small yet effective size for those wary fish. Fishing this bait deep and shallow has benefits. It is a bite-sized snack that flutters around the bottom. It can be hopped or drug, but it is prone to snags because of its open hook. This is an excellent alternative to trigger bites if fish may be shying away from a jig.
For those deep water fish, a blade bait is tough to beat as it provides vibration and flash that are key when working lethargic cold-water fish. A vertical presentation allows you to fish this bait directly under the boat or on a cast. When you mark fish on your electronics, you can work this bait in the depth you see them and on the bottom. It is best fished when casting this bait by lightly hopping it on the bottom, creating a subtle vibration and flash. You can adjust your retrieve to be aggressive to increase vibration to incite a reaction bite. A 1/4oz to 3/4oz Steel Shad blade bait are great baits to fish either technique.
As the conditions begin to improve but you are still faced with cold, dirty water, a spinnerbait will be a bait to try. Slow rolling a Colorado bladed spinnerbait provides a lot of vibration that moves a lot of water. When the water is dirty but warming, fish will hold tight to cover such as laydowns, wood, and rocks, any piece of cover that will attract warmth. A big, slow, flash and vibration of a spinnerbait triggers that reactionary instinct that bass have. A 3/8oz or 1/2oz is a great starting point, but a 3/4oz is an option to fish more aggressively. This size bait allows you to be accurate with your casts to stay tight to cover. Adding a moving bait to your ice-out arsenal helps you adapt and keep those active fish honest when the conditions present themselves.
Don’t let the ice-out conditions trick you into thinking that fish won’t bite. Fish are still active, but slowing down and adapting to the changing conditions will be keys to success.
- Stan Miketa