When most people think of fly fishing at ice out in our neck of the woods, they think of Lake Trout and other trout species. However, there is a huge opportunity to catch the biggest smallmouth bass in the system at ice out.
Literally 4-30 days after ice out is the best time to go. As soon as the ice is out, shallow water temps will go up in temperature. Remember that dark bottoms heat up first, and warm water floats (or is less dense) and will get pushed by the wind. Water is the most dense at 39 degrees, so if ice is out and the temps have been cold and the surface temp is 36 or 37 degrees, the warmest water is at the bottom of the lake... in otherwords, your too early.
or, if the water is 39 on the upwind side of the lake, and its sunny... as hard as it is to cast, get down wind to the shoreline, take a temp and if it is higher than 39, stay there and start casting.
If you are a fly tyer, here are some proven colors schemes for early season smallmouth on the fly. have fun with it. These colors are shown here intentionally not as patterns, but as color ideas... you make up the streamer. These colors have not only been proven, but also marketed by major lure makers.
As you can imagine from this picture to illustrate streamer color combinations, bright colors really matter in spring time... especially at ice off. Chartreuse, yellow, hot orange and hot pink and white or gray are all colors that have been proven to work. Feel free to add flash, but not too much. And adding an eye is a sure way to really get a good strike, as these predatory fish target the eye for a focal point of their strike.
Smallmouth winter in rock areas in schools. Usually at about 25-35 feet is where they will be congregated. As soon as the ice goes off, some fish will already start to spawn or look to spawn. They move from the rock areas to shoals that are near by the winter areas. Rock drop offs adjacent to a rock flat are the best. Bass will be in water 4-10 feet deep as soon as the ice goes off, and they will be in pairs of 2 or more.
I hope this helps you target big smallmouth in the spring, and remember to catch and release. I know you are used to reading Mark Usyks Stories on here, but we wanted to add some how to also to get you excited for spring.