DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- Growing up I couldn't wait to wet a line in the open water and this is still the case to this day. This spring I filled that void time frame between unsafe ice conditions to ice out/open water with a little research.

Last summer I stumbled across some smallmouth bass while looking for largemouth on a body of water near Detroit Lakes. They were isolated in a small area and I stayed on them trying to figure out how to get these fish to bite for about two hours. My time did pay off, but it took patience. I returned to this lake a few more times finding small spots around the lake to hunt smallies and I continue to have decent luck on this lake.

Growing up we didn't have too many lakes near us that contained smallmouth so my experience with catching them is fairly limited.

Fast forward to the end of ice fishing and I'm wanting that bulldog feel on the end of my line, but Minnesota bass fishing will be closed and won't open for a while.

I found myself searching the internet for "early season smallmouth fishing" and "spring smallmouth fishing Minnesota." I stumbled across articles online and a few good YouTube videos pinpointing what I think could pay off for our northern bodies of water. I grabbed my stack of In-Fisherman magazines and flipped to the pages highlighting smallmouth fishing. I kept the issues that contain spring and smallmouth highlights in one stack and place the others to the side. I sat back and started to absorb article after article of techniques to get early season smallmouth bass.

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I've got the itch.

I didn't want to wait until Minnesota opens bass fishing to start scratching said itch. So I started to look at the lakes I can fish. Living in Fargo, I do have options. I found a few lakes on the eastern side of North Dakota and know of a few bodies of water that support good smallmouth fishing near Webster, S.D.

I navigated to the North Dakota Game and Fish site to look at stocking reports, lake surveys and contours for the couple lakes that contain smallmouth. The NDGF has nearly all their bodies of water listed with a lot of helpful information. I picked one lake and then I went back to YouTube. I found a few videos of guys fishing smallmouth bass on this lake. These videos aren't early spring fishing, but I saw them catching and it added to the yearning to get out.

Now to the part where my career will hopefully help me out. I'm a meteorologist so I have some pretty good insight on the forecast in the upcoming weeks. It has been relatively cold with only a few token warm days and I'd like my first day out to have a little less wind. Especially if I'm fishing a prairie lake; they can get pretty rough with a spring breeze. Some of you may think it will be better with more wind, but I didn't want that for my first time out.

I'm trying to put my game plan together for this first time out of the year. I think back to a few articles I read on spring fishing when water temperatures are still quite cold. I set up a bunch of different rods, but right now I'm leaning toward two baits. A 1/16-ounce black marabou jig and the other being a suspending jerk bait. From what I've learned before going out, these appear to be what others have used and had success in similar conditions.

Rods are set. The day is picked. Weather forecast is sunny with light winds. I hooked up the bass boat and headed to the lake.

Light winds and plenty of sunshine making for a beautiful spring day on a North Dakota lake. Jared Piepenburg / StormTRACKER meteorologist
Light winds and plenty of sunshine making for a beautiful spring day on a North Dakota lake. Jared Piepenburg / StormTRACKER meteorologist

At the landing, I spoke with a young gentleman who landed his bass boat right before me. I told him it is my first time here and he kindly mentioned a few areas on the lake I could try. He even told me what he planned on using. I thank him and get my boat in the water. Water temperature is 43 degrees. I'm thinking right away these fish may want a slow presentation.

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I took a look around the lake since it is my first time on this one. I noticed a part of the shore that goes from sandy bank to rocky shoreline. I boated over there and used my side-imaging to see if what is above water extends out into the lake. Sure enough it did and I even noticed what appeared to be some fish sitting in the rocks. I put a couple way points out and continue around the shore. I boated back to my waypoints and dipped in the trolling motor. Four casts later, in the first spot, of the first outing of the year, and I've got a fish on. Slow rolling that tiny black marabou jig on light spinning equipment and the bulldog feel of a smallmouth is on the end of my line.

Early spring smallmouth bass caught by Jared Piepenburg on a 1/16th-ounce marabou jig April 10, 2021. Jared Piepenburg / StormTRACKER meteorologist
Early spring smallmouth bass caught by Jared Piepenburg on a 1/16th-ounce marabou jig April 10, 2021. Jared Piepenburg / StormTRACKER meteorologist

I grabbed my Rapala scale with a big smile on my face and it weighs 2.55 pounds. I took a quick picture and placed the bass back in the water. Next cast. Another heavy pull on the line and I boat a 4.78-pound football. I can't believe it. I should though. I spent many hours planning where to fish and what baits I should throw at them.

I ended up catching more bass this first time out on the tiny black marabou jig and a few on jerk baits using very long pauses. I'm talking a full count of 10 seconds! I found all of this information online and in magazine articles.

I'm not saying you have to put as much time as I did into planning your next fishing experience, but maybe look into trying something new. I'm not new to fishing, but my knowledge of smallmouth fishing was very limited. A little research improved that.