If you live in the northern part of the country from Minnesota across to Maine, you probably haven’t seen open water on your local lakes in many months given the harshness of this winter. I mean, even the [Great Lakes are practically frozen solid](­great­lakes­are­// almost­completely­covered­with­ice/20830737/?icid=maing­ grid7%7Cmaing9%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D443147). That’s a big enough deal to [make the news](­great­lakes­are­// almost­completely­covered­with­ice/20830737/?icid=maing­ grid7%7Cmaing9%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D443147). A question I hear often is, “what does a deep freeze like this mean for bass fishing in the spring?” The common thought is that it will push the timing of the spawning cycle way back. That could actually be the case if we have an especially cold spring. But many times, a nasty winter doesn’t have the negative effects you think it will, and in some cases it’s a blessing in disguise.


What shapes up for the spawn all depends on the weather right around that critical post-thaw period. The scenario I often see up north when the winter has been brutal is that everything just happens quicker when spring comes. Ideally, you’ll see the stages of thaw, rapid spring warmth, and immediate bass spawning activity. Of course, this spawning activity happens within a shorter span of time than we’re used to or than in the south where spawning behavior can happen for months. Ultimately, this shortens the pre-spawn period, which is a peak time to hook trophies, but not all is lost.

A normal or drawn-out pre-spawn offers you good fishing for a longer time span. But a compacted pre-spawn gives you outstanding fishing for a short amount of time. Your job is to be on top of the timing by way of checking water temps, watching weather patterns, and monitoring the lunar calendar to best pinpoint exactly when this magical window is going to open. In my travels to states like Minnesota after extremely cold winters, I’ve seen lakes thaw as late as mid-May, and by early June the smallmouths are already spawning around the full moon, or during a warm spell. Catch a warm phase and the full moon at the same time, and it’s often lights out. You may only have a few weeks prior to the spawn to capitalize on the waves of bass moving shallow, but those can be some of the most epic bass fishing weeks of your life.