Fishing for smallmouth bass can be one of the most exciting types of angling. Known for being aggressive fighters, many fisherman will travel far and wide to get an opportunity to chase smallies. Listed below are 4 tips to help you be more successful the next time you target this species:
Fish The Weather
Smallmouths require clean cool water. The problem with this type of habitat, from an angler’s standpoint, is that when the temperature drops, they disappear. When water temps go below about sixty degrees, smallmouth bass hibernate.
Since the waters they prefer are already on the cool side this means that smallmouths spend a decent chunk of the year either diving very deep or hibernating.
Smallmouths tend to be rarer in the south, due to their affinity for the cold. Smallmouth bass in the south are relegated to very deep lakes and spring-fed streams. Since smallmouths are also unable to spawn in dirty water, those clean cold mountain streams are vital for them.
Smallmouths tend to come to the surface for feeding very early. In shallow streams, they can be found all day in visible depths. Be careful about casting a shadow, either with your body, or a boat. The contrast between light and dark disorients them, and they will swim away. It is difficult to catch a fish that isn’t there.
Know The Prey
The key to catching any fish is knowing what it wants to eat. If you are using corn, you might catch catfish, but you probably aren’t going to bring in a lot of bass. Bass are obligate carnivores. They eat things members of the animal kingdom. That includes frogs, lizards, insects, crawfish, and other fish.
The size of prey animals that a bass wants to eat depends on the size of the bass, but don't be deceived by the name smallmouth. Smallmouth bass can still have pretty big mouths, they just aren’t bigger than the fish’s whole body. If you want to catch bass, use bait that is big enough to be appealing.
Fly fishing is a totally different style, but if you are experienced with it, it can be a great way to bring in smallmouths. They will strike at flies, as long as you use the proper size flies. Flies should be large enough to be easily seen, and heavy enough to sink a bit. Smallmouth don’t climb as well as trout do, so the fly needs to get to them.
Smallmouth respond well to attractants. Garlic is a popular additive that they find pleasant. Since smallmouths don’t have fantastic vision, they are much more strongly driven by smell and sound.
If you are able to fish early in the morning, spinner baits and other topwater lures work just fine.
Basically, scale down any bait you could use with a largemouth and it will likely work on smallmouths.
Follow the Calendar
There are some important calendar factors that will also help with knowing when and where to fish.
During spawn, bass will seek out their spawning grounds. This means that your normal fishing locations may be useless, and other areas that normally are not heavily populated end up covered up. Fish behaviors change behavior and after the spawn, so knowing the spawn season in your area will help you to be a more successful angler.
Aside from the spawn, there are behaviors that change with the seasons. If smallmouth are in lakes with largemouth, they tend to be deeper than whatever layer the largemouth are in. Be aware that you might not be able to fish for smallmouth at certain times of the year, as their hibernation drives them too deep. When these seasonal changes occur, it may be time to switch to largemouths for a season.
Avoid Pressured Fish
Fish that have been hooked, tend to avoid it. Going to the fishing hole that everyone knows about means that the same fish keep getting fished over and over. Fish that have been fished repeatedly eventually learn that the funny looking crawfish is not really food. These fish become very difficult to catch.
This is the reason why fishermen hide their honey holes so carefully. Once you have found a place where you can get a strike, you tend to protect those places, so they don't end up overfished.
When it comes down to it, smallmouth aren’t that different from largemouth bass. If you can modify your techniques just a little bit, your successful bass tactics will work just as well on the largemouth’s less familiar cousin.
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