Summertime Smallmouth - Where have they all gone?
Where have they all gone?
By Greg Cosentino
The spring spawn has come to an end, leaving anglers all over the country curious as to where their once aggressive adversaries have gone. With the spawn over, most smallmouth bass have abandoned the shallows and moved on to more suitable habitat. Fish are beginning to concentrate on key structural elements where they will hold through early fall. With a little hard work and a lot of dedication, anglers may well be tapping into the best smallmouth fishing of the year.
Summertime smallmouth hold many different patterns in any given body of water. Some are roamers, feeding on pelagic baitfish; others remain shallow, and the rest, well, they are the fish that hold on breaklines and other key structural elements. Finding such locations requires a proper knowledge of what will attract smallmouth to certain areas, while similar locals are devoid of fish. Smallmouth require areas with deep water access, sandy or rocky bottom, vegetation, and a easily accessible food source. Find these features and your may have found yourself a new hotspot!
Points attract fish all year round, but by finding one that contains certain qualities, one can certainly increase the number of fish brought to the boat. Look for points with deep water access. These points should consist of a firm bottom with scattered rocks, boulders and sparse weed growth.
Shelves, ridges, etc. all will hold fish as long as some access to deep water is available. The more pronounced the changes in depth, the more potential a spot may have.
Open water humps are key concentration areas for smallmouth. Look away from the shoreline and try to concentrate on isolated humps in the main body of the lake. If you lack a good graph, use buoys as your guides. These markers will outline humps and rockpiles. Both of which will hold fish.
Now that we have found the fish, how do we catch them? If you're thinking grubs and small soft plastics, think again! Summer smallmouth can be extremely aggressive and these finesse tactics may just not fit the bill. Think big. Half ounce spinnerbaits in chartreuse/chartreuse combinations or clear with green fleck skirt and blades with Tandem or double willow combinations usually fit the ticket nicely. Also try Zara Spooks in chartreuse, firetiger or shad patterns or minnow plugs up to six inches in length in natural patterns. Sometimes soft plastic stickbaits in bright, sometimes outrageous colors are the key. All of these baits have the potential of catching large numbers of fish as well as the occasional trophy. Spinnerbaits and soft plastic jerkbaits should be fished when there is a slight chop on the water, while minnow plugs and spooks can be used to call up fish when flat water is available.
Once you have determined where you want to fish and what type of lure to use, boat positioning becomes the next component to the smallmouth puzzle. Boats should be positioned off the structure one plans on fishing. Long casts are necessary since just as many smallmouth will be suspended off the area you are planning to fish as will be holding on the structure itself. Casts should reach beyond your intended target and fished all the way to the boat. Smallmouth are notorious followers and will sometimes follow a bait nearly to the boat before hitting. Keep an eye on your bait at all times. Sometimes you can actually watch a smallmouth hit your bait while three others charge him to try and steal it. An exhilarating experience to say the least!
Burned inches under the surface, these baits call up fish from clear water lakes. Watch your lure at all times. These fish will be charging up to hit your bait and will literally tear the rod from your hands. Remember to use a trailer hook at all times or this fast paced fishing.
Walked in an enticing side to side cadence, this is another bait known to attract the interest of any deep water smallmouth. Patience is the key here. As the bait is walking across the surface, many fish will come up to strike the bait and miss. Continue your retrieve and nine times out of ten, that fish will come back to strike again. When you feel the weight then its time to set the hook.
Twitch them in a stop and go retrieve or in a series of rapid twitches. In either case, hold on! Smallmouth are suckers for minnow plugs and will hit them with authority.
Soft Plastic Stickbaits
Stop and go, stop and go. Nothing too fancy is necessary when using these baits. Keep an eye on the bait and on your line at all times. Most of the time one can watch the fish take the bait, while at other times a slight twitch of the line may indicate a pickup.
Summertime fishing doesn't always have to translate to largemouth bass. With the proper information and equipment, any angler can go out and experience the heart pounding leaps we have all grown to love. And for all of you experienced anglers, please practice catch and release so someone else can share in this wonderful experience as well.