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UPSmallie

Advice on Targeting Bigger Smallies?

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Hey guys, 

So lately I've been bank fishing a local inlet that flows into a main river.  It naturally draws in many pike as well as smallmouth bass.  On the smallie side, I've caught a 14 in on a small daredevil, a 15 in on a live freshwater gobie, and another 15 in on a Rapala X-Rap.  I know there are bigger bronzebacks out there though because I saw at least a 4 lb smallie surface a couple of times this past week.  I've tried topwater, but have yet to get a smallie to commit to Spooks or Hula Poppers.  The primary depth that I'm fishing is roughly 10-12 feet deep with a rocky bottom combining with a sand bar ledge.  As far as forage goes in the river I've seen snails, gobies, emerald shiners, and crayfish.  I've tried crayfish tails or just crayfish, but have yet to see results.  Any suggestions to curing some lockjaw?  Thanks

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I don't know enough about the river you are fishing, even what part of the world it exists in. If it has gobies, I can only assume it is connected to one of the great lakes.  Because the river you fish has gobies, follow the gobies. I don't see bass leaving an area that has that kind of forage. You might have to find a way off the bank to get to more spots.

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If you can Wade to get out a little further do that. Tie on a 5 inch Keitech easy shiner and experiment with your retrieve. 

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A smoked purple tube has killed it for me on Erie and has landed some footballs

I like to use cabin creek tubes

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a jig and pig usually draws bigger fishes attention, or a spinnerbait,... give them a try

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Thanks guys.  It's an inlet to the St. Mary's, which is a branch off of Lake Superior.  

@Hogsticker Thanks, I've been wading in my leaky FrogToggs lol.  For sure I'd say wading has helped in terms off hook-ups compared to my land fishing buddies.  I'll look into the Keitech.  I mostly just fish Storm wildeyes but need to start widening my variety.

 

@mrmacwvu1 Thanks for the idea.  I bought some watermelon tubes, but still have yet to put them to much use.  I'll have to try that color combo.

@Keith "Hamma" Hatch  Thanks, I bought a terminator jig and skirt, but still gotta throw a plastic craw behind it.  I'll keep you guys posted if I can sink into a Hawg.

 

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As an avid river smallmouth angler I may be able to help you hang into larger smallmouth. The first thing is to up size your baits because the old saying of "big baits catch big fish" is true. Yes, big fish eat small stuff and vise-versa but on average you'll get bigger fish with bigger baits. Now I don't know the specifics of the cover, or all of your depth zones but that is where you start. Start looking at the spots you are catching the fish and try to establish spots in all the zones, find the shallowest water you catch fish at and the deepest spot and then you play connect the dots, look for riffles, polls and other areas in which the fish can move to to feed and then the closest cover they can move to and rest out of the current. Once you have that established use baits that probe those areas that will attract bigger fish, the shallow spot I'd go with a square bill, crank, if you have dirty water or an overcast day go right to the shallow areas and hit it with a crank like a Baby 1 minus or a Cordell Big-O, they aren't large cranks but in the kind of water you're fishing they normally draw larger than average size fish. You can also use your favorite but big smallmouth in moving waters seem to really respond to the crankbait so try that.  Another bait is a spinnerbait, but instead of a small one go with a 1/2oz with double willows if the water is clear to stained or a double Colorado for dingier water, these can be used in both shallow and mid depth zones, if you have clear water choose natural colors and burn the bait, that tactic is a big fish killer!! The last thing will work in all zones, a tube, but try to go with a fat tube in the 3.5" to 4" size or a 5" Senko and rig it Texas style with no weight, the difference in the size of fish you get from the 4" to the 5" is unbelievable, and that is how I would approach your situation without really knowing the water.

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Thanks for the help smalliejaw67.  The water is primarily murky, with a slow drawn out current.  For this reason, anything with flash or vibration tends to get hammered by the swarming pike in the area before many smallmouth can take a bite. It might actually be a potential cause as to why most of the fish are in the 15 in range, I don't know.   Actually, I have a perfect example of this which I think is kind of interesting.  So this past week as I was smallie fishing I saw a pretty big smallie rise to the surface (not sure if he was eating or what since there were no insects riding the surface film).  Naturally I figured time to hit him with a topwater.  Threw on a Heddon One Knocker and chucked it out near where I had seen the smallie.  Two unsuccessful casts with a steel leader on, I decided to clip off the leader since it was slowing down the walk-the-dog motion.  Tie it on direct and bomb it out.  7 seconds of motion later and a 32 inch, 6.75 lb pike steamrolls it.  Biggest adrenaline rush of my life.  Trying to upload a picture, but the file is 1.60MB.  I'll have to try some of the crankbaits you mentioned.  Thanks again.

I think this will work

https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=9396BC3518B01A20!238&authkey=!AIybHZoLihVgE8s&v=3&ithint=photo%2cJPG

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UPS, Just follow "Orion" and it will tell you what to do! LOL

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In my exp. on the handful of lakes I fish................with largemouth, big ones are loners, but bigger smallies tend to wolf pack up in small groups. If your catching a lot of small keeper up to 2.5 or so lb smallmouth, there will be LOTS of them in the general area. If it's bigger smallmouth your after............MOVE. They will not be in the same area.......usually. Often times for me, it's not a depth change or anything like that. It seems like if the little ones are in 14' fow, the big ones will be too.................just in a different spot. The biting windows are much smaller for the big ones too. While you may catch small to average sized fish all day, the big ones turn on and off in little, often random flurries. You kinda have to know where they are and be ready to NOT get bit until they decide to flip the switch.

Another interesting aspect I have noticed with bigger than average smallmouth...............they are tattle tails. Catch one out of that wolf pack, and let it go where you caught it............and unless it's just a lights out feeding frenzy kinda bite, your chances of catching more from the same group go right in the toilet. When allowed (in season) every big one goes in the livewell (up to a 5 fish limit) until I am done fishing the area. Small ones don't seemed to be bothered by this.

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UPsmallie, I send my pics to facebook , it will downsize the file,..then to my email which i attach to my desktop, or downloads,.. then i come here and attach them,.... it worked for me for my boats pic,..thanks to a thoughtful Bass Resource member that posted this tip on another thread.

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I know people are always using tubes and drop shots for smallies, but at least where I fish, the big ones don't have to be finessed. My biggest smallmouth have come on an s-waver 168 (23"), 2 on a war eagle spinnerbait (19"), and a white swimjig with a swimming fluke trailer (19").

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On 6/7/2016 at 10:11 PM, everythingthatswims said:

I know people are always using tubes and drop shots for smallies, but at least where I fish, the big ones don't have to be finessed. My biggest smallmouth have come on an s-waver 168 (23"), 2 on a war eagle spinnerbait (19"), and a white swimjig with a swimming fluke trailer (19").

That has been my experience as well. My biggest smb have been aggressive, on spinner bait and square bill. 

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Thanks guys for the ideas and suggestions.  I'll definitely have to look into some of the swimbait bodies out on the market.  My Personal Record Smallie came on a 5.5 inch generic smelt swimbait on a 1/2 oz jighead fishing for Atlantic Salmon.  Definitely a shock to see a bronzeback shoot up from the depths and inhale it.

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There's good advice on here already, but a few quick tips...

 

Dominant fish tend to occupy a lot of prime feeding spots.  So, that means a few things. First, larger predators are going to take their pick of prime positions that suit them best.  If you're fishing grass lines, expect pike and musky to be a part of the equation because those are areas they tend to dominate.  Similarly, if we were talking about a lake with a large, healthy largemouth population, they would also dominate a lot of similar habitats.  Second, dominant fish within a species are going to get the best pick of spots available and advantageous to that species.  You see it in underwater footage of trophy largemouth, in that they tend to dominate the best ambush positions in their area in largemouth dominant bodies of water.  Now, applying the same idea to river fishing, you'll find the largest smallmouth typically at the tops and bottoms of a lot of riffles/rapids, boulder fields, areas of converging current with deep water access and behind the points on inside bends, especially if there's cover like downed trees or a change in bottom composition.  These areas allow fish to get big without burning calories fighting current and once they get into the 3lb plus range, there aren't many predators that are going to push them from their spots.  Big rocks often yield big smallmouth, not necessarily because they're the best feeding area, but often because smallmouth have been relegated to them and they can thrive there. 

@smalljaw67 hit the nail on the head regarding bait size.  Which baits depend on conditions, forage, and where you're finding fish, but big tubes, craw jigs, 4"+ swim baits, and anything representing the larger size of crayfish, gobies, sculpins, mad toms, hellgrammites, etc that smallies gorge themselves on can be really productive.  I've caught smallies in the 16-19" range walking full sized Spooks.  A similar common mistake is the idea that finesse fishing always requires small baits.  This isn't necessarily true.  If you can fish larger soft plastics T-rigged, drop shot, or on an appropriate jig head slow to the point of near agony, you'll surprise yourself with the results.  Guys like Jeff Little are river smallmouth savants and boat lots of 17"+ fish dead sticking.  

Anoter tip on the opposite end of the spectrum, has to do with how you fish your crankbaits in current.  Fish will orient into the current nearly 100% of the time.  One of the few situations fish will haul ass down current is if they're being chased.  One of the best ways to simulate this is casting straight up current and ripping a crankbait down current through a boulder field.  A good abrasion resistant line is important, and not a gauruntee, but this is a great technique for getting reaction strikes in current.  

Hopefully this gives you some ideas to play with.  

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Thanks HuskyBass and Turkey Sandwich for the ideas and help.

Update:  

I went back yesterday to the same river.  I tried all kinds of new tactics jig and pig, senkos, tubes, etc. and couldn't get a bite.  I did catch a 10 in on a shadow rap which was kind of weird since the rap is like 6 in long lol.  About an hour later I was casting the shadow rap again and hooked the same darned smallmouth!  I fin clipped his anal fin because I have a feeling I'll be seeing a lot more of him in the future.  Having no more luck with smallies I decided to try for some pike.  Threw on my lucky silver S-Shaped Spoon and 3rd cast hooked and landed a 26 in 4.25 lb pike.  Just before I left I did see a decent sized dark brown smallie, maybe 3 lbs do another rolling surface motion thing.  I'm not quite sure what he was doing.  Finicky bass I guess.  When I get the chance I'll buy some better swimbaits to throw and see if those help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anytime.  Knowing the water temperature and where they are in the spawning cycle can be helpful, too.  If they're towards the end of spawn and into post-spawn, it can be hard trying to coax a strike out of mature fish. 

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There is some great advice on this thread already. I'll add my 2 cents. Throw topwater exclusively for a few trips. You may go a few hours without a bite but when you do get bit they are usually the biggest fish of the pack. 

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