Hey there fishing enthusiasts and welcome back to my site where I like to discuss and research all things fishing. Today I am going to check out a target species as I discuss my 5 Smallmouth Bass fishing tips to lure in this year. Smallmouth Bass, like their Largemouth cousins are an extremely aggressive fighting fish when hooked making them very popular for anglers throughout North America.
So here I am going to see what tips we can come up with to assist you in getting them onto the hook and into the net…
What are Smallmouth Bass?
A member of the Black Bass family, Smallmouth Bass are an aggressive freshwater gamefish native to the eastern half of the U.S.A. and southeastern Canada, from Manitoba and Quebec south to the Tennessee River system in Alabama and west to eastern Oklahoma (although it has been introduced to other areas as well).
Whilst they are a little smaller than the Largemouth, they are just as popular for fisherman due to their ultra hard fight for their size. They are distinguished by their slender appearance, connected dorsal fins and bard stripes across the eyes. They can be found in faster running and clearer water than the Largemouth however in lakes will often share spawning zones.
To be honest, my fishing experience when it comes to Smallmouth Bass is limited however they are the closest example to the Australian Freshwater Bass in terms of territory, looks (they are not of the same family but do have the joint dorsal fin), behaviour and how they are caught. We go after these in the warmer weather here in streams and rivers and actually use similar lures and gear to those chasing Smallmouth in the U.S.
Added to that, based on my experience and research, that the tips I will run through below are very similar to most of the fishing I do at home – i.e. know what the fish eat, when they like to eat it and where they will be when they are hungry. So with all that in mind – let’s elaborate on it all further below:
1. Look for rocks and a little current
Ok, so my first tip here involves knowing where the fish like to be. Smallmouth Bass live predominately in lakes and rivers where there is generally a lot of structure such as rocks, ledges (sudden drops on bottom), trees, bridges or jetties and so on. In general, they do like a little current and a rocky bottom where they can move about and hide within the structures – drops offs are good too. There are always exceptions but in general, you will need to be flicking your lures or bait into these rocks in order to land your catch.
The good news is that a lot of the time these will be located close to the bank so you can definitely catch them from there although you may need a kayak or boat if you are going after them in the drop offs (or in the daytime). On the other side of the fence, prepare to get snagged a bit in the rocks – especially if you are using lures – as you cast into them.
2. Research your fishing grounds
This one is definitely a tip for all types of fishing but especially important for Bass where water temperature etc. can play a large part in their feeding habits. If you fish in the same spot every time then you can probably move onto the next tip. However if not, then it probably goes without saying that what works in one spot may not necessarily work in another. If you are fishing somewhere new, then consider the following:
- Water temperature – How fish behave in different temperature water is relative to how cold or water the water is on average. Think of this as just like us humans – a water temp of 45 degrees might be considered warm for a fish in a lake that freezes over in winter. Alternatively, in warmer climates (such as Florida for example) this might be considered cold meaning fish are less active feed wise. Smallmouth Bass will come to shallower water in the early morning or evening but tend to go deeper when the weather is warmer during the day.
- Water clarity – Fish behave differently dependent upon whether the water is clear or murky – Smallmouth Bass do tend to like water that is on the clearer side however you will still need to look for structure or places fish can hide. If the water is murky or cloudy however, you might find fish out in the open a bit more or in shallower water. Use fresh bait or brightly coloured lures in murky water too.
- Weather patterns – If you are anything like me, then you prefer to fish in conditions where the weather is nice and calm. The same however cannot be said for our little Bassy friends. Windy and even raining weather can stir up the feeding habits of many fish species for a number of reasons including the fact the it stirs up the bottom (and whatever tasty morsels have been hiding there) and that it send smaller baitfish into concentrated protected areas. So, if you know where the weather comes from on your body of water and where the protected areas are, then there is a good chance you can land a catch there as well.
- Structure – As per tip #1 above, look for any structure that fish might like to hide under…
- What else is in the water? – We will discuss this next, however if you are wondering what bait or lures to use then you will need to check out what is in the water naturally. It is no good tying your favourite lure onto the line if it doesn’t match the type of live bait that shares the water with your target species. See what is found locally and match your fresh bait or lures accordingly.
- Ask a local – Want to know all of the above – ask a local. Lake or riverside tackle and bait shops are a good starting point here.
3. Match bait and lures
As mentioned above, Smallmouth Bass are particularly aggressive fish that will take a large range of baits and lures. However, like most wild animals, fish will chow down on whatever is available to them in their local environment. So if you want them to nibble on your bait, then try to match as closely as possible to what they eat naturally. All too often we tend to just run into the old bait shop and purchase what we have always used without any considerations to local conditions.
The same goes for lures – I would strongly suggest finding out what lures are popular in that area. Admittedly there can be a science to this and many seasoned Bass fisherman will swear by using different lures at different times. Others only use certain types (or fresh bait) and won’t hear of anything else.
When it comes to Smallmouth Bass however, I would suggest trying a slightly larger lure as they seem to have a penchant for chasing large prey. That said, it still has to move so get one just big enough to entice a hungry fish but not to the point that it drags along the bottom.
Basically, anything that will attract a fish is the right type to use – but as above, regardless of where you sit in the old fresh bait vs lures debate – if you can match what is found locally, then your chances of a good catch will increase.
4. Get up early
Where I fish here in the land down under, we catch more of our Bass in the early morning or late evening due to fish coming in to feed in shallower, warmer water (as that is where the baitfish are). This is similar for Smallmouth Bass in that the water temperature etc. can greatly affect their eating habits and hence the amount of times they are charging at your bait or lure.
The optimum time to catch yourself a ‘Smally’ is in the hours either side of dawn and dusk. Once the weather warms they will go deeper where they can still be caught, just not as easily. So get up early to give yourself the best chance of getting amongst them.
5. Keep your equipment sound
And finally, perhaps my biggest tip here is that regardless of when and where the fish are biting, your chances of landing your personal best Smallmouth can be significantly reduced if you don’t look after your equipment. This includes:
- Maintain your fishing reel – Make sure it is clean with a good quality line. Rinse it off after every use with a full clean and oil after each season.
- Clean your rod – Again, rinse your rod after each session and check for any crack or breakages – especially in the o-rings and guides. Remove the reel and clean the seat, screws and handle every month or so as well.
- Use new tackle – Blunt hooks means no fish. I am a strong advocate of replacing your tackle after every trip. And whilst this is not as important in fresh water fishing as it is in salt, keep in mind that hooks are dragged over rocks, logs and along the bottom meaning they can go blunt even if you don’t catch anything. Lures tend to last a few trips but if possible, I would recommend replacing the trident hooks every few uses as well.
- Check your tools – Tools should also be rinsed after each use however this is not always done. And trust me there is nothing worse than getting out there and finding out your pliers are rusty or knife blunt. Clean and lubricate tools and sharpen your knife every month or so.
So there you have it, my 5 Smallmouth Bass fishing tips to lure in this year. As always, these are not going to guarantee you a catch, however they should give you a little more chance of success that you may not have otherwise had.
Have you tried anything else that has worked well, or not so well for you – or of course have a different opinion than above? If so, please comment below and we can have a chat.