Improve your odds on summertime smallmouth fishing
Whether fishing the Great Lakes or the sprawling impoundments of the Dakotas, glacial pools in the quiet countryside or the mountain gems of Tennessee, these easy tips will help you catch more smallmouth… period.
Fish where they are. This may seem like an overly simplified approach to picking a spot, but the fact is, many people overlook it. If you are fishing one of the storied lakes of Tennessee, you stand a reasonable chance to boat a six-pounder, but you will not likely catch more than a handful of fish. In direct contrast, you may catch a hundred or more in a mountain stream in Northern Arkansas, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one over four pounds. Certain locales, like the upper Mississippi River and Lake Erie, offer excellent numbers and a good chance at big fish. Be sure to check with the state wildlife agency and look at creel reports to determine the expectations you should have for a certain body of water.
Give them what they want. Again, this is not a difficult concept but it is one that many anglers refuse to grasp. I like to fish with spinnerbaits, but once smallmouth move up on the beds, they much prefer to eat a tube or crawfish colored Fuzz-E-Grub in my home waters. Likewise, in the late summer when I’ve been catching them on jigs for two months, they begin to feed heavily on shad and I need to switch to crankbaits to turn their motors on. Pay attention to what techniques are working and don’t be afraid to try several different things to see what is best. Also, watch closely to see if a fish spits anything up when it comes to the surface – this can be the clue you need to really hone in on the hot pattern.
Mind the depth. A good smallmouth angler will know the exact depth at which fish are holding. Early morning and late evening often find smallmouth shallow while they hold in somewhat deeper water in the heat of the day. Locating and keeping track of the depth of actively feeding bass can also be indications of whether the fish shown on the sonar are smallmouth or something else.
Follow the lines. A good topographical map loaded onto your GPS can be your best friend when targeting smallmouth bass – especially on large reservoirs. Summertime bass will stack up at the bottom of rock piles and off of main lake points during the day and move on top during active feeding periods. Even on cloudy, cool days when fish feed all day, they will almost always be near to deep water where they can escape if necessary. Look for areas with steep drops or stair-stepped ledges where fish will hold. With a little practice, you can pick out likely spots before you ever leave the boat ramp and maximize your time on the water.
Pay attention to structure. Okay, so you’ve got the fish figured out. They are holding on the leeward side of main lake points where the depth changes from 15- to 24-feet…sometimes. Why are the fish on some of these spots but not all of them? The answer could be because the structure is different. On a given day or moon phase, fish will relate most closely to a particular type of structure. Generally, rocks are a good bet for mid-summer smallmouth, but they may key on sand, grass or even mud flats. Pay attention.
Time it just right. Much of the fishing for brown bass this time of year involves jigs or tubes and a big factor in the effectiveness of either is fall rate. Active fish will often inhale a lure before it reaches the bottom, but how they view that lure determines whether they will hit it or just watch it fall. A lighter weight lets your bait spend more time in the strike zone, but a heavier presentation often triggers a reaction bite as the jig zooms past a smallmouth’s line of sight. Try several different jighead weights before settling on one to determine which the fish prefer. Generally this will change throughout the day.
Color up. It is much too deep of a topic to get into here, but color matters. In general, use bright colors on bright days and dark colors on overcast days; use metallics in clear water and neons in stained water; pearl to white is good pretty much anytime. Sometimes glow colors pay big dividends. The bottom line is EXPERIMENT. The fish will tell you pretty quickly which colors they like best – especially if there are several people in the boat fishing different options. It is a good idea to fish three color combinations if possible to provide maximum contrast. For example, a Sapphire Shad Fuzz-E-Grub with a black Max Gap jig gives you blue, white and black – a deadly combination. For even more variability, try the X-Change Jig System and fine tune on the go.
Put your money on the line. There is nothing more frustrating than having everything right and losing the big one before you get it in the boat. One of the biggest problems contributing to smallmouth getting off the line is, fittingly, the line itself. Monofilament with too much stretch prevents anglers from setting the hook firmly when a smallmouth grabs a jig. Quality fluorocarbons, such as that made by Silver Thread, are a good low-stretch alternative in clear water. In stained to dirty water, it is tough to beat a good superline for sensitivity and great hook-sets.
Next time you hit the water in pursuit of smallmouth bass, follow these simple guidelines and catch more fish. Guaranteed.
via Lindy Tackle!