To bass anglers used to fishing Midwestern flatlands and the relatively shallow lakes of the South, Highland reservoirs, with their steep banks and deep, clear waters, can be intimidating, especially during the early season.

Tournament angler and Smithwick ambassador, Ty Spade, lives in Pennsylvania and counts famed Raystown Lake among his home waters. When searching for early-season largemouths in the steep, deep and clear reservoir he recommends focusing on transition areas.

“In April, when the water is till cold (low 50s), look for areas near spawning flats where the bottom changes from slate rock to chunk rock, or from chunk rock to pebbles,” he said. “Those spots hold fish during prespawn.”

Keep in mind the type of lake, here, and that the term “flats” is relative. The majority of bass spawn in 5-to-12 feet of water, typically on a hard, pebbly bottom, he said — and the terrain isn’t really all that flat. Areas protected from wind and main-lake currents should be at the top of your list.

The key to catching early-season highland bass is to run a bait fairly deep while still keeping it above the fish’s level, and Spade’s go-tos here are Smithwick’s Elite 8 and Perfect 10 jerkbaits.

“They run consistently at 8 and 10 feet, respectively, on 10-pound fluorocarbon. Bass will come up to get them, but won’t go down, so make sure they stay above the fish.”

It’s best to start at the transition and work toward the spawning area. “And you don’t have to be as slow with the bait as you might think,” he added. “Many times bass react better to a more aggressive twitch and shorter pauses during the retrieve.”