Smallmouth bass are probably my favorite fish to catch. Many anglers argue that these fish are the strongest fresh water fish pound for pound. I think I would have to agree with that statement, especially if you are fishing in a river. These fish are so strong and they put up some amazing fights. Watching them jump can be very exciting, however, this is the time that they spit out your lure, swim away and laugh at you. I can not prove that they actually laugh, but if I were them, I would be laughing. Experienced anglers know how to fight these fish to keep them from jumping, but sometimes, they will get in the air on the best anglers and after a couple of head shakes, the fishermen will get his bait back with a sick feeling in his or her stomach. Let’s go ahead and take a deeper look into smallmouth bass.
These fish provide anglers with some exciting action and it starts earlier in the year than largemouths. Many fishermen start having success catching smallmouths when water temperatures are still in the 40s. Fish will be deeper, but they are still catchable. As the water warms in the spring, fish will move into the shallows to spawn. Deep, clear water lakes usually provide a good habitat for these fish and during the spring, you can see them all over the shallows spawning in the clear water. Some states prohibit fishing for smallmouth during this time of year, but if you are allowed to fish for them, you can have a blast. Jigs work well during this time of year, but you can also catch them on soft plastics, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and a variety of other lures. Live worms, minnows and leeches also work well. Catch and release is recommended during the spawn.
Once summer arrives, smallmouth will move deeper. Depending on the lake you are fishing, you might end up fishing anywhere from 12 to 50 feet of water. On Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, we routinely fish 30 to 50 feet of water in the summer and most fish will be in the 20 to 25 foot range. Try to resemble the bait fish that are in the lake. Lures that resemble small perch will work well because smallmouth bass will school up and feed heavily on perch in deeper water. Give them something that they are looking for and you should do well. To consistently find fish in deeper water, you will need to use your electronics and gps if you have it.
There will be some fish hanging out in the shallows as well. Fish the docks and other types of cover if you are fishing shallower. You won’t find too many smallmouths cruising the shallows in the heat of the summer. They will be positioned on cover. Once the sun comes up, fish the shady side of docks and you will catch a few.
If you are fishing rivers, you can still find many fish shallow during the summer. Rivers stay cooler and I have been able to catch fish in only a few feet of water on 90 degree days. Deeper pools will usually hold more fish and bigger fish though.
In the fall, have some fun fishing shallow and deep. They will be scattered throughout the different depths. A good way to fish during this time is to start shallow, then move deep. On lakes that have some good dropoffs, try to position the boat so one fishermen can cast shallow and the other anglers can work the deeper water. This will help you figure out where the best bite is for that specific day.
For more information, take a look at our smallmouth bass fishing page.