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BankBassing

Your Best Piece of Smallmouth Advice (vs. Largemouth)

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I got interested in bass fishing somewhat accidentally, watching fishing videos on youtube and being really intrigued by all the tackle and tactics used by bass fisherman.  I watched as many things as I could to learn these things.  However, much of this revolves around largemouth bass fishing.  I live on the Ohio River in northwest West Virginia where largemouth are not as prevalent, and smallmouth make up the majority of the bass population.  So, if you'll indulge me here, what is your best piece of advice for fishing for smallmouth?  What about largemouth fishing should I be disregarding if I'm targeting smallmouth?  Needless to say, I'm specifically interested in fishing for Ohio River smallmouth (I've caught 2 at a dam/tailwater in high current with a white spinnerbait), although I do fish some small lakes too.  Thanks for sharing your expertise.

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At times, they definitely can be harder/more of a challenge than catching largemouth, especially if you are fishing from shore.  The biggest thing I've noticed when comparing the two, is that you will have MUCH more success if you stick with minnow style baits than you will if you stick with traditional largemouth style plastics.  Rapalas have outproduced Senkos for me for smallmouth bass 10-1.  I've even caught smalmouth on spoons, but couldn't buy a bite on all things plastic.  They can be frustrating, but keep at it and you'll start to learn.

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try a topwater, even though both will hit topwaters. Smallies seem to really like them especially in the morning and evening, or anytime the suns not beating down on them

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 In habitats where both Largemouth & Smallmouth are present ~

Bright, Especially Sunny Skies - Smallmouth bites seems better - regardless of the season.

In Cloudy, Overcast, Grey (barometer low or falling) sky conditions (including wetness)  Largemouth Bass seem more cooperative. 

While checking the forecast (or looking out the window) planning a trip and deciding where to go & what to target - I use this most basic guide to choose; especially if heading to spots that have only one or the other.

A-Jay

 

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Smallmouth tend to be more structure oriented while largemouth tend to like some form of cover. They also seem to prefer a smaller or slimmer bait (minnow profile versus a shad profile), but of course there's always exceptions to the rule. 

When it's topwater season, always have one tied on and never be afraid to fish it. I fish topwater all day long for smallies, even in water less than a foot. Last time I fished for them, my dad and I were on a clear water lake and our biggest smallies were coming out of less than 2' of water on flat rock banks. We could see the bottom, it seemed like we should be able to see the fish, but when we'd throw our baits onto what appeared to be barren banks, the "rocks" would come to life and destroy our baits. This was in the middle of the day with the sun high overhead and very little wind. Smallies really have no regard for the rule book.

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As someone who fishes for both river and lake smallmouth I can tell you there is a big difference between just those two not to mention largemouth as well. River smallmouth are shallower and they tend to really feed mostly by site and are very sensitive to color and flash more so than their lake dwelling kin. Lake smallmouth tend to hold deeper on average and prefer hard cover more than largemouth which gravitate toward areas with vegetation but as Bluebasser stated, there are always exception to the rule. For baits for each one, again I agree with Bluebasser in that minnow shaped baits out produce shad imitators a majority of the time. If I have clear water in the river I can fish jerkbaits all season long from suspending baits in spring and fall and floating style baits all summer and they will put both numbers of fish and large fish in the boat. Even when throwing crankbaits you see a preference in smallmouth preferring smaller profile cranks like wiggle warts, Big-O's and others like that. When it comes to largemouth, I do better shallower and with bigger body cranks like the Rapala DT Fat, and the KVD 2.5 and while I do catch smallmouth on the larger cranks and largemouth on the smaller ones, it normally isn't consistent and tends to be in areas where both species of fish are feeding.

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I purchased a couple smaller, minnow shaped and colored, shallow swimming crankbaits at the recommendation of someone local, but they are so difficult to cast any distance at all.  I'm only using 12 lb test.

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I usually target the clearest water available.  Seems where there is a mixture of bass the smallmouth always prefer the clearer water with structure.

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On 9/10/2016 at 9:11 AM, BankBassing said:

I got interested in bass fishing somewhat accidentally, watching fishing videos on youtube and being really intrigued by all the tackle and tactics used by bass fisherman.  I watched as many things as I could to learn these things.  However, much of this revolves around largemouth bass fishing.  I live on the Ohio River in northwest West Virginia where largemouth are not as prevalent, and smallmouth make up the majority of the bass population.  So, if you'll indulge me here, what is your best piece of advice for fishing for smallmouth?  What about largemouth fishing should I be disregarding if I'm targeting smallmouth?  Needless to say, I'm specifically interested in fishing for Ohio River smallmouth (I've caught 2 at a dam/tailwater in high current with a white spinnerbait), although I do fish some small lakes too.  Thanks for sharing your expertise.

Im his son and I can tell you he really is into bass fishing!

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Don't assume that just because smallmouth have smaller mouths that they won't hit lures normally associated or marketed to largemouth fishing. I've caught 10-inch smallmouth using a 5/8oz spinnerbait. A good bit of the time I find smallmouth to be more aggressive.

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When fishing for river smallmouth I will generally start with a spinnerbait on one rod and a tube on the other rod. You can branch out to more presentations but I have generally found their mood of the moment to put them either on the spinnerbait or on the tube.

Also, I have found smallmouths to be complete suckers for a ned rig tumbling in current. It is a good way to locate concentrations of smallmouth.

 

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In my opinion, smallmouth are significantly easier to catch than largemouth. They are more aggressive in nature and will be more active than largemouth at lower water temperatures as well.

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On 9/10/2016 at 8:11 AM, BankBassing said:

I got interested in bass fishing somewhat accidentally, watching fishing videos on youtube and being really intrigued by all the tackle and tactics used by bass fisherman.  I watched as many things as I could to learn these things.  However, much of this revolves around largemouth bass fishing.  I live on the Ohio River in northwest West Virginia where largemouth are not as prevalent, and smallmouth make up the majority of the bass population.  So, if you'll indulge me here, what is your best piece of advice for fishing for smallmouth?  What about largemouth fishing should I be disregarding if I'm targeting smallmouth?  Needless to say, I'm specifically interested in fishing for Ohio River smallmouth (I've caught 2 at a dam/tailwater in high current with a white spinnerbait), although I do fish some small lakes too.  Thanks for sharing your expertise.

I fish for river smallmouth frequently, but I've never fished a river as big as the Ohio. The big difference that I see is that current is very, very important with  river smallmouth fishing. Success is nearly always found near current. With largemouth, they will hold more in the slack water and current is not as important. My best piece of advise for river smallmouth is to look for current breaks. Areas where faster water is moving past slower water such as happens behind a wing dam, islands, fallen trees, bridge piling, rocks, or points of land. The bass will hold just on the edge of the fast water, just out of the current. If those were the only places you ever fished on a river, you'd do just fine. 

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Finding smallmouth (or most fish, really) in rivers is all about understanding seasonal patterns, current, and forage.  If you want to start catching fish quickly, while beginning to understand the bigger picture, I'd start here.  If you can't find fish, you can't catch fish and focusing on this stuff will teach you where to find fish.  Jeff Little is a river smallmouth guru and his seasonal patterns DVDs, along with his YouTube channels and other online content make a great place to start and are a nice break from Shows where pros are more focused on selling products than actually teaching you to fish. 

 

The other thing that a lot of new river fishermen have trouble with early on is learning how to present lures naturally in current.  Think of current as a natural conveyor belt that brings food and oxygen to fish.  Staying patient, learning how to feel the bottom, current, etc is very important, as well as understanding that you're going to be spending time freeing snags.  It's just a part of the game, especially in rivers.  I also suggest starting by learning how to fish some really basic stuff like tubes, 3-5" grubs, and in line spinners etc is a good investment of time because they're high percentage baits that will catch you fish, they can be fished on most tackle and they aren't expensive.  

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6 hours ago, everythingthatswims said:

In my opinion, smallmouth are significantly easier to catch than largemouth. They are more aggressive in nature and will be more active than largemouth at lower water temperatures as well.

Completely agree. Spots are even easier to catch than smallies. 

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17 hours ago, Mosster47 said:

Completely agree. Spots are even easier to catch than smallies. 

Also seems like the lengthy periods of inactivity that largemouth exhibit on a daily basis are either not nearly as long, or not existent at all in smallmouth.

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3 hours ago, everythingthatswims said:

Also seems like the lengthy periods of inactivity that largemouth exhibit on a daily basis are either not nearly as long, or not existent at all in smallmouth.

Agree again. If the conditions are in your favor and you're fishing smartly for those conditions you're going to catch big numbers of smallies and spots pretty much all day. That won't be the case with largies. 

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I haven't read through all the responses but I have found this to be true of Smallies:

They are very different from one body of water to the next.  (St. Lawrence, white drop shots and goby baits, must have current.  Champlain, dark colors, C-Rig and can be found anywhere).

If they are present, you will know it fairly quickly.  If you don't get one or a blow up soon after arriving at a spot, they probably aren't there

If you loose a big one (breaks off of throws the hook) the school will shut down for a long while. 

They can be anywhere.  5lber out of 3ft in August OR the very next day, 5lbs down 80ft over 100ft while trolling for Salmon (this happens up here all the time).

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On 9/11/2016 at 9:00 AM, BankBassing said:

I purchased a couple smaller, minnow shaped and colored, shallow swimming crankbaits at the recommendation of someone local, but they are so difficult to cast any distance at all.  I'm only using 12 lb test.

Probably more about the rod than the test.  However, 'only using 12lb test' raised my eyebrows, as well.

 

What specific crankbait are you trying to throw?  For example, a 2 inch Rapala only weighs about an eighth of an ounce and cannot be casted by any baitcaster in my inventory.  However, on a light spinning rod with 6 lb Yo-Zuri, I can fling it a good distance. 

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When I say 12 lb test I'm talking about my spinning rod w/ 12 lb Trilene on it.  The smaller crankbaits I have are Rapalas as well.  Probably the same weight you're speaking of.

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Check the lure weight rating on the rod.  Not gospel, but decent enough starting point to guide you.  Smaller raps almost need a rod rated down to 1/16 oz.  I do have a one pretty whippy spinning rod rated at 1/8 oz that will toss them, but it isn't ideal.  I'd never put 12 lb test on it unless it was braid or gliss.  Don't give up on those little raps.  Once you have right rig, you may find they'll catch fish (most any sort) when nothing else will.

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I have found that smallmouth bass are generally more rock/gravel or hard bottom oriented and largemouth are more weed/grass or soft bottom oriented.  Thats why smallmouth are brown to blend in with rocks and largemouth are green to blend in with weeds.  I generally do better for smallmouth when its sunny out and better for largemouth when its cloudy out, as a previous poster has already mentioned.  You don't necessarily have to down size your lures, but just keep in mind that their mouths are smaller so using smaller hooks is probably a good idea.

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I am fairly new to smallmouth fishing in clear creeks/ rivers (SW Missouri Ozarks). I am actually new to smallmouth fishing altogether (2 1/2 years only). I am a relatively good largemouth fisherman and have fished lots of lakes and ponds in many states and caught lots of largemouth and some good-sized ones (8-9 lbs) too. Largemouth seem to be relatively easy quarry to me though there are challenging days (post frontal, muddy water, etc.). MY PROBLEM in these newer SM streams is figuring out the/a pattern. I go to a creek area and find riffles pouring into a deeper channel of water and boom! I load up on smallies right and left. I move 400 yards down stream and find almost identical conditions and nothing!!! Some days a stretch of creek will produce a few big brownies(16-17 inches is a big SM to me) and lots of little jumpers and then two weeks later the same creek with very similar conditions gives me only one or two small bass. I rarely have that issue in big lakes unless conditions change between trips. I appreciate and will definitely try some of the above advice, but I wonder if smallmouth move to different feeding areas often in clear rivers and streams????

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12 minutes ago, Cranks4fun said:

I am fairly new to smallmouth fishing in clear creeks/ rivers (SW Missouri Ozarks). I am actually new to smallmouth fishing altogether (2 1/2 years only). I am a relatively good largemouth fisherman and have fished lots of lakes and ponds in many states and caught lots of largemouth and some good-sized ones (8-9 lbs) too. Largemouth seem to be relatively easy quarry to me though there are challenging days (post frontal, muddy water, etc.). MY PROBLEM in these newer SM streams is figuring out the/a pattern. I go to a creek area and find riffles pouring into a deeper channel of water and boom! I load up on smallies right and left. I move 400 yards down stream and find almost identical conditions and nothing!!! Some days a stretch of creek will produce a few big brownies(16-17 inches is a big SM to me) and lots of little jumpers and then two weeks later the same creek with very similar conditions gives me only one or two small bass. I rarely have that issue in big lakes unless conditions change between trips. I appreciate and will definitely try some of the above advice, but I wonder if smallmouth move to different feeding areas often in clear rivers and streams????

 

The short answer is that there will likely be good numbers of active smallmouth anywhere that provides quality feeding opportunities and oxygen.  Sometimes the bite turns on and off, but generally with low water conditions in he late summer/early fall, you're still going to be finding them at the heads and tails of pools, fast current meeting wing dams, ledges, boulder fields with current, etc.  Also, pay attention to weed beds.  If you were catching them 2 weeks ago while the weeds were green and lush, and now they're starting to brown, that's  your change in conditions. Similar, sometimes even a 6" drop in river level will change where they position (remember, that change not only effects depth, but also current). 

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