Warm Water Smallmouths
From the time the shallow bays first open up you can find smallmouth bass in the warmest water you can find. I have had my boat on Indian Bay on Shoal Lake and had 100 fish days in the spring when the main body of the lake was still ice covered! Up until they actually start spawning, which happens when the water temperatures get in the 60 degree range, finding the warmest water you can find will likely put you in touch with some hungry smallmouths.
It is such a simple rule to follow and it has saved the day for me many times on many bodies of water. Anywhere you can find warm water flowing into a lake is a magnet for smallmouth, as are shallow rocks and boulders in the shallow mud bays. Old pencil reeds, or likely their roots, can generate some warmth as well and have surprised me numerous times over the years early in the season with how many smallmouths are cruising through them looking for an easy meal.
Watch your Electronics
The key is to keep your eyes on your electronics and watch the water temperature closely. Only one or two degree differences can make a big difference some days. One lesson that I’ve learned from fishing the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament on Lake Michigan for many years is that the warmest water is going to be on whatever shoreline or cove the wind is blowing into. Thousands of smallmouth pile into a few bays off the main basin of Lake Michigan to spawn and when we go there for that tournament the fish are still in prespawn mode, feeding like crazy. The surface water is always the warmest in the spring so a normal wind will warm up one side of these bays when the wind blows the surface water into them. Same thing happens on our lakes like Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake in the spring.
When it comes to catching smallmouth, suspending jerkbaits are tough to beat early in the year anywhere. I have caught thousands of them on a Jackall Squad Minnow 115 over the years, then I like to have small tube or a minnow bait rigged up on a jig for casting to specific sweet spots. Keep it simple and you can catch a bunch of fish.