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  • Writer's pictureRyan Kelly

Ice Out Spring Bass Fishing Patterns for Big Stone Lake

Big Stone Lake Spring Bass Fishing

Big Stone Lake has gained a reputation as one of Minnesota's best big bass lakes, with spring ice-out and pre-spawn providing the best fishing of the year. This post will cover my approach and techniques used during the spring ice-out period (40-50 degree water).

Planning a Spring Bass Trip on Big Stone Lake

As with any fishing trip, a little planning will make the experience much more enjoyable. Before each guided bass trip, I always start my day by checking the wind and weather. This isn't just important for fishing, it also helps me decide on where to launch each day. Big Stone is a prairie lake without any major coves or harbors. I typically recommend launching out of Mallard Point on a north wind, and the foot of the lake in Ortonville in a south wind.

Wind direction can also be helpful in understanding the daily trends. North winds typically indicate cooler temps and/or cold fronts. These conditions will generally keep bass in deeper water, closer to the "main break". South winds are generally a sign of warming trends, often attracting fish to the "shallow structures". During the spring (especially ice-out), water temp trends are critically important. Bass will move from deep water on a cool morning, to the shallows on a warm afternoon. Locations and techniques will follow the temperature trends.

Contour and depth map of Big Stone Lake.
The majority of bass in Big Stone are located in the south half of the lake. Between Mallard Point and Ortonville.

Big Stone Bass, Ice Out Locations and Movement

Big Stone is a large lake, 12,500 acres and 26 miles long. Breaking it down may seem like an impossible task, but it's not too hard. For beginners, I always recommend fishing the south half of the lake. Generally speaking, the farther south you go the more bass you'll find. The stretch of lake between Mallard Point and Ortonville, will hold the vast majority of bass.

Big Stone has what I would consider to be four major structures. These structures being mostly depth related.

Shoreline/Bank - As the name implies, this is the shoreline to about 2'.

Shallow Structures - Everything in 3'-6', rocks being most relevant at this time.

Main Break - The drop leading from the shallows to the basin, 7'-11'.

Basin - Big Stone has a shallow basin averaging around 12'-14'.

Contour map highlighting the main structure of  Big Stone Lake.
Big Stone Lake has four main structures running the length of the lake; shoreline, shallows, main break, and basin.

As mentioned earlier, temperature trends will be the most impactful factor in spring bass fishing. Throughout the winter, many bass will use the basin. The deeper the water, the more consistent the temp. Bass will continue to stay close to deeper areas throughout early spring, falling back on deeper water in cold front conditions. However, bass are usually pretty quick to take advantage of a warm day. Often moving into the shallow structures on a warm afternoon. Sharp drops on the main break provide easy access to both. During the ice-out period, I like to fish these areas which have rock. Rocks are the most consistent cover during early spring on Big Stone.

Warm days during the ice-out period, provide the fastest bass fishing action of the year. This is when schools are at their largest, and bass begin to feed heavily after a long winter.

The shoreline is another popular option, but I prefer the shorelines after water temps reach the 50s. Stick to rocky areas on the main break and shallow structures during the ice-out period. While rocks are attractive to bass in the shallows, schools will congregate in warm water pockets even if they're a little off the main structure.

Best Ice Out Bass Techniques

Jerkbaits and crankbaits are the two most productive ice out techniques on my guided bass trips. They are both fairly simple, but effective techniques for cold water bass. Another advantage with these techniques, is that they are both effective in all conditions at this time.

Each one of these techniques does have their particular strength, and conditions that they excel under.

Starting with jerkbaits, cold conditions are their specialty. I lean heavily on jerk baits when,

  • water temps are in the low 40s.

  • cold fronts.

  • cool mornings.

Fish the jerk baits subtly, a light twitch-twitch-pause is best. The key is to impart action on the bait without much forward movement.

I switch to crankbaits when temps are warming. Nothing will beat a shallow running crankbait on a warm afternoon. The best retrieve is slow and steady. Occasional light bottom contact will produce the best results.

When picking jerk baits or crankbaits, I'll use both shallow and deep running versions depending on the depth. Jerkbaits are usually in the 100-110 size, in a chrome or white pattern. Crankbaits are usually something flat sided, in a shallow running 7 size. My favorite colors being chrome, firetiger, or bluegill.

Side scan sonar is an important tool for locating fish holding structure on the main break. It is equally as effective for locating schools of bass in the shallows.

Good Luck!

Big Stone Lake fishing guide Ryan Kelly, with an ice out crank bait bass.
Big Stone Lake fishing guide Ryan Kelly, showing off an ice out trophy bass.

Ryan Kelly

Lagoona Guide Service



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