For many bass anglers, ice-off is both cause for celebration and frustration. Yes, you can launch the boat again, but now you’ve got to manipulate bass in frigid water into biting. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: location is the most important part of bass fishing. You have to be where they are first. But if there is ever a time to think more critically about lure selection, it’s just after the ice melts. Some anglers have a habit of being so gung-ho when the season starts that they fish too aggressively. What I’ve noticed is that there are baits that get a handful of bites this time of year, and a few that get consistent bites. I’m going to tell you about the one that works best for me, and how to tone down your approach to make it produce for you while the other guy is fiercely ripping a crankbait, hoping for that first big slam of the season.
As far as I’m concerned, ice-out means jigs out. However, the same full-bodied, wide-profile jigs you like to tip with pork rinds in June can stay right in the garage for another month or two. Small, compact jigs made out of hair or rubber like the ones in the photo are often my ice-out meal tickets. You won’t see me add a trailer either, because trailers simply make the profile too big. The next step is getting the jig working correctly.
Three common cold-water jigging errors are using jigs that are too light, not moving the jig enough, and using line that’s too heavy. You need the jig to reach the bass, which are typically holding deep, and you have to keep the jig moving constantly if you’re going to coax a bite. A jig that’s too light may not even reach the right depth, and even if it does, you may not detect a strike. Opt for 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jigs, and spool with light braided tipped with light fluorocarbon leader. I find that continuous hops often get lethargic bass to bite, and I avoid dragging at all costs. Not only do you get bored and hung up constantly, but dragging also isn’t doing enough to say, “Here I am. Bite me!”