Most Popular Techniques
Bottom fishing is very popular for smallmouth bass, however, most anglers don’t think of it as bottom fishing because that phrase is used more with saltwater fishing. Smallmouth bass thrive in lakes with rocky bottoms and they feed on crayfish and gobies that live around the rocks, so you can always find some smallmouth bass relating to the bottom.
Crawl Your Baits Along the Bottom
Most anglers don’t use this technique because it such a slow and kind of boring technique to use, but it works great. This technique is usually best with a crayfish or creature bait.
Hop Your Baits Along the Bottom
Pick your favorite soft plastic bait and fishing rig and hop your baits along the bottom and you’ll catch plenty of smallmouth bass. Find some rocky areas and you’ll be sure to find some bass willing to bite.
Swim Your Baits Along the Bottom
You can have a lot of success by swimming a variety of baits along the bottom. Use a heavy enough weight that your bait maintains contact with the bottom as you are swimming it back to the boat with a steady retrieve. There is something about a curly tail grub or other type of swimming bait that just drives smallmouth bass crazy when it continues to bump off the rocks and continues to swim forward.
Casting a variety of soft plastics and hard baits is one of the most popular ways to target smallmouth bass. Break out your favorite rod and reel for casting and work the shorelines, points, rocks, reefs and any other spot that looks good for smallmouth bass. When these fish are in 10 feet of water or less, casting is probably the best way to cover a lot of water and find active bass. Some of the more popular baits for covering water are curly tail grubs, swimming worms, ring worms, crankbaits, swimbaits and spinnerbaits.
Drifting is by far one of the best ways to target smallmouth bass with live bait when you have a little bit of wind on the lake. You can fish a variety of soft plastics on a jig or drop shot rig while drifting as well. Find a good drop off or rocky area and let the wind drift you along to help you cover some water. When you find the more productive areas, stay in those spots with your anchor or trolling motor or you could just use the big motor to move the boat back up to do another drift.
Drop shotting is a term used by anglers for when they’re fishing with a drop shot rig. This is a great technique that anglers use for soft plastics and live baits. Fish shallow, deep and everywhere in between and you’ll catch plenty of bass drop shotting. Take a look at our drop shot rig for smallmouth bass page for more information, videos, etc.
Jigging is more popular for walleye, but many walleye anglers will also catch a lot of smallmouth bass while jigging. When smallmouth bass go deeper, find some good structure and try vertical jigging to catch some smallmouth bass. Live bait such as minnows, nightcrawlers and leeches work great on a jighead. You can jig many different soft plastics baits also, but some of the better baits to use are minnows with a twitch tail and finesse-style worms.
There are a number of baits that look great on a steady retrieve and smallmouth bass love the action of a swimming tail. Whether it’s an actual swimbait with more of a paddle tail or just a curly tail on the back of a worm or grub, smallmouth bass love them. All you’re doing with this retrieve is swimming the bait in with a slow, consistent pace. Keep these baits just over the rocks or right along a drop-off or weed edge and you’ll catch a lot of smallmouth bass.
Topwater fishing is one of the most exciting ways to fish for smallmouth bass. As water temperatures warm into the 60s, you can have a lot of success by fishing with topwater lures. The peak topwater bite typically occurs when water temperatures rise into the 70s during the summer months. You can catch plenty of smallmouth bass on topwater lures in the shallows around rocks, wood, weeds and other types of shallow water cover.
At times, smallmouth bass can be seen feeding in large schools on the surface over deeper water. The smallmouth bass will push schools of bait fish up to the surface and if you are at the right place at the right time, you could see dozens of smallmouth bass feeding on the surface. It could be over 10, 20 even 50 feet of water. This usually occurs in the summer or fall.
Dead sticking is a do-nothing technique where you don’t move your bait. There are some good baits to use this technique with. For most baits, a slight pause would definitely help you get more bites, but don’t think of a slight pause as a dead sticking technique. For the dead sticking technique, we are talking about casting your bait out and doing nothing for like 20 to 30 seconds. Some anglers dead stick their bait for even longer.
Trolling can be very effective when targeting smallmouth bass when these fish are in deeper water. When the bass are shallow, you are better off casting so you don’t spook these shallow water fish. Think deeper water and you’ll have more success.
Wading for smallmouth bass can be very exciting. For many anglers, wading is something they would do in rivers and streams. You can also wade the shorelines in some lakes and even in some bays of very large lakes. Wading can be a great way to fish some areas where you couldn’t fish with a boat. For some people, wading is the best way for them to target smallies since they don’t have a boat.