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smallmouth Tactics

By Nic DiGravio

smallmouth bass tacticsIt takes a certain unique type of angler to pursue the Smallmouth Bass.  They are stubborn, adventurous, persistent, patient and most of all versatile!  Sometimes being a bit of a scientist helps.  Equations consisting of temperature, structure, cover and food source will eventually equal success.  A good Smallmouth angler also questions why a certain day was successful.  What was the temperature?  Was there optimum cover and food to sustain the Bass?  Answering as many questions as possible makes us wiser about this elusive fish’s whereabouts! 

The ultimate tool in aiding us in our search for Smallmouth Bass is temperature.  It is such a factor in my Smallmouth outings that I will not even shut the main engine down unless the temperature is just right.  If I am tossing a crank bait in and around shoreline structure with a water depth of say, four to six feet, my temperature reading will be between 68 and 72 degrees F.  Any higher and I will move on.  Now if this same shoreline dropped considerably and fast with a slightly higher temperature I will definitely probe the depths with my crank bait.  That just makes sense to me.  Too many anglers take temperature for granted.  Water temperatures of 75 degrees and up prompts me to take my search to deeper water, like mid lake humps or good shaded areas where the Smallmouth can get out of the direct sun to stay cool. 

The ‘where there is one there is more’ rule of thumb is true more often than not.  Smallmouth hang together more so than Largemouth, especially in vast lakes such as Erie or Simcoe in Ontario.  When one is taken, keep trying because I can almost guarantee there are more!  That is why we tournament anglers know it to be true that in big lakes, if you are on the Smallmouth, and they happen to be on the bite, you will pretty much place top ten at the end of the day.  Smallmouth are fearless and when on the bite they are oblivious to anything around them.  When one takes a bait others will follow.  It is a site to see.  Even after all these years I still whoa….when it happens. 

‘Dare to be different’ will bring Smallmouth anglers success too.  When using tubes try hidden rattle weights instead of your normal tube jigs.  And if you are a die hard jig user then rig the tube with the jig not quite all the way to the tip so that it traps air to prolong hang time.  Instead of a medium or slow crank bait or stick bait retrieve why not burn it home and see what happens.  When Smallmouth are not in the mood we need to get them in the mood.  Aggressive fishing sometimes works as does the opposite, dead sticking.  Let it sit in front of them for as long as you can and eventually even they can’t take it anymore and just have to hit your bait.  Basically we Smallmouth anglers must ‘crack’ the code, if you will.  Be armed with as many different rigs as you can and once we figure out the pattern the live well will fill up in no time.  And when we do find the pattern, stick with it, even when moving from spot to spot.   A pattern can last hours, days, even weeks so long as Mother Nature cooperates in giving us consistent weather for consistent water temperatures.  We have to keep in mind that temperature dictates their every move; so in turn temperature should dictate our every move as well.  Different Smallmouth transitions come with different weather patterns.  In the early season we will find them close to shore and the summer months, depending on the lakes depths and structure, the Smallmouth tend to move on into deeper transition areas where they can stay cool.  There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but by following a simple fundamental tactic like temperature we can at least be steered in the right direction.   

I can tell you one thing when in pursuit of Smallmouth; I don’t leave home without fluorocarbon.  Whether I am using a shaky rig, drop shot rig, tube jig, Carolina rig, basically any bait on the end of my line will be tied to fluorocarbon.  That and that alone can make the difference between a successful day and a bad day.  But then again, any day chasing Smallmouth Bass is a good day because there will always be something to learn to help make us wiser for the next outing!

A good tactical Smallmouth Bass squad will be armed with a map and an attitude that no Smallmouth can contend with.  Leave no weeds unfished, no depths uncranked, no docks unjigged and no boulders unturned.  These simple tactics with attitude are all it takes.  Are you up for the task?

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