Catching Summertime Smallmouth in ReservoirsCatching Summertime Smallmouth in Reservoirs Summer can turn reservoirs into saunas, but smallmouth can still be caught if you follow this advice.
By John Neporadny Jr.
Yankee anglers enjoy cooler weather and great smallmouth bass action throughout the summertime on Northern natural lakes but trying to catch brown bass in the South can be a challenge.
Heat and humidity turn Southern reservoirs into saunas but smallmouth can still be caught if weather and water conditions are right or if anglers take advantage of an early morning bite. Mississippi guide Roger Stegall is one of those early risers who pursues smallmouth throughout the summer on Pickwick Lake.
“In the summertime smallmouth will bite early in the morning better than they do any other time of the day,” Stegall says. “They move up at night in shallow water and when it gets daylight in the morning they will still be up shallow but as the day goes on they move deep.” Stegall admits night fishing for smallmouth can be good at Pickwick but he never fishes for brown bass after dark.
The Pickwick guide finds early morning smallmouth congregating on shallow gravel bars, clay banks and rock piles where boulders have slid into the lake. The fish will usually be less than 10 feet deep in those spots.
When smallmouth are up in the shallows, Stegall’s favorite lures to tempt the fish into biting are spinnerbaits, topwater lures such as a Strike King Sexy Dawg Junior and shallow-running crankbaits, such as Strike King Series 3XD or Strike King KVD 1.5 Square Bill models, in shad or bream colors. “At times you can catch them on a swimbait running it right under the surface like a spinnerbait,” he says. A stop-and-go retrieve at a medium speed usually produces best for Stegall for all of his lure choices. He works his lures with a 7-foot G Loomis 843 medium-heavy rod and Shimano Curado 6.2:1 baitcast reel filled with 12-pound Vicious Elite Fluorocarbon.
Stegall prefers fishing for summertime smallmouth on the lake rather than the tailraces below dams. “A lot of people fish up in the tailraces but the tailrace system is either good or bad — there is no in between,” he said. “If the current isn’t running there you just might as well go to the house. When you fish in the lake you can do pretty well most of the time.” So Stegall prefers fishing the lake because the action is more consistent than the tailrace areas where smallmouth are turned on or off by the water flow from the dam.
The current also has some affect on the lake fishing. “If you get current you can catch them on into the day but in the summertime you don’t get as much current as you do in the spring and fall when you get the big rains,” Stegall says. “If they are generating some current you can catch them pretty well.”
Targeting current breaks is the key to catching smallmouth when the water is flowing. “Those fish will get right in the current breaks such as a big rock or a big stump or anything that will break the current,” Stegall says. He notices the fish will hold in front of the current breaks waiting for food to flow downstream to them. When fishing the current, Stegall favors throwing his lure upstream and retrieving it in the same direction as the flow to make a more natural looking presentation.
As the sun rises higher later in the morning, Stegall moves to deeper water where he finds smallmouth following schools of minnows. He catches these schooling bass on crankbaits ranging from a Strike king Series 2XD to a Strike King 6XD in shad colors or swimbaits (Strike King Caffeine Shad, Swim’n Caffeine Shad or Shadalicious) attached to a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce jighead.
His favorite lure for catching smallmouth in deeper water is a 3/4-ounce Strike King Premier Pro-Model Spinnerbait he has modified by replacing the lure’s tandem blades with a single number 5 willowleaf blade. He prefers the single willowleaf blade combined with the 3/4-ounce body because it gives off the right amount of vibration for slowing-rolling the lure with an occasional lift-and-fall presentation.
Stegall’s summertime smallmouth tactics work best in stained water and inclement weather. He favors fishing for brown bass on Pickwick when the weather is either windy and cloudy or rainy. “If we get bad weather, we can catch a bunch,” Stegall says.
The shallow summertime pattern produces several smallmouth bass from 12 inches up to 3 pounds and Stegall’s clients occasionally catch some 5- and 6-pounders. “There have been a few times when I have caught a five-fish stringer that would weigh 17 to 18 pounds,” he says.
Smallmouth remain in the same spots until late summer when some of the fish move to more sloping banks. These fish tend to roam more and follow the schools of baitfish wherever their food source goes.
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