Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tips
Smallmouth bass are hard to beat when it comes to pure fighting ability and the thrill of the catch. Smallmouth bass anglers often use smaller versions of the same baits and lures used for largemouth bass. The most common fishing method is casting and retrieving artificial or live baits into places where you suspect smallmouth bass are hanging out. Smallmouth bass can be caught on any type of bait casting or spinning equipment, and some folks feel that a smallmouth bass on a fly rod is the ultimate angling experience.
After ice-out, smallmouth bass begin to seek out areas where water warms up faster than the open lake. The bass are seeking areas for spawning as well as to feed on schools of emerald shiners which also move into these warmer areas. Smallmouth bass start moving into tributary streams in mid to late April and will stay through May. Fly anglers do very well drifting or swinging woolly buggers and minnow patterns, especially emerald shiner patterns. Productive lures used by spinning anglers include stickbaits, crankbaits and other lures that imitate minnows/shiners.
Weather conditions in pre-spawn have some impact on fishing success, but probably not as severe as in summer. Smallmouths inhabit the shallows even during inclement weather as they "feed up" in preparation for spawning. Severe wind blowing over spawning shoals will force smallmouths into deep water, making them more difficult to locate. On bright days smallmouths are reluctant to move into the shallows, except in early morning and evening. The fish will linger close by in mid-day and usually can be found by fishing several feet deeper.
During summer, smallmouths disperse and are much more difficult to locate. Post-spawn smallmouths move to deeper water zones where they will hold during the summer months. The bass bite is usually best between 20 and 40 feet of water, however bass can be found deeper. Anglers need to take a vertical approach to fishing for summer smallies. Productive lures include jigging spoons, blade baits and spoonbill jerkbaits; however tube jigs, soft plastics and live bait are angler favorites. "Tubes" are a top artificial bait for Erie smallmouths and can be used effectively through cast and retrieve, vertical jigging or combined with a drop-shot rig. Depending on depth, combine a ¼ to ½ ounce leadhead jig (3/8 oz. is good for 35 feet of water) with a 21/2 to 5 inch tube.
Consistently productive colors are those that imitate the bass's natural prey items, colors like smoke/charcoal with flecks and greens (baitfish) or browns (crayfish, round goby). Soft plastics such as grubs, worms, baitfish imitations and other creature baits work best when combined with a drop-shot rig. Live bait combined with a drop-shot rig is another popular method. Minnows and crayfish are top live bait offerings, but nightcrawlers and leeches will also work.
Fall is one of the best fishing periods for smallmouth bass. During autumn, smallmouth are found in the same locations and are caught by the same methods as described above for the summer period. In fact, sometimes the fall smallmouth fishing quality exceeds the summertime experience.
Seasonal Fishing Tips
Spring: Use baits that imitate baitfish. White and silvery tubes, twister tail jigs and spinners. Fish deep pools with cover of wood, large boulders or undercut banks.
Late Spring: Use baits that imitate baitfish. White and silvery tubes, twister tail jigs and spinners. Look for areas with rocky bottoms with slow moving water. Males may be guarding nests if water temperature in low to mid 60s.
Summer: Use crankbaits and plastics that imitate crayfish. Retrieve with a motion that will allow the bait to hit the bottom to simulate a swimming crayfish. Chartreuse jigs with spinners are also good. Active fish are in runs and where riffles and pools meet. Work jigs in runs and riffles around rocks and eddies. Shady areas can be good.
Fall: Crayfish imitating baits still work but fish are switching back to fish. Use inline spinners, tubes and jigs in lighter colors. Cast baits across pools and runs retrieve at medium rate with twitching action. Fish pools and runs around cover. As water temperatures drop fish will spend more time in pools. Use jigs and other baitfish like tackle in pools to catch these fish.
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