Downsize Your Baits
Smallmouth bass have much smaller mouths than largemouth bass. Because of this, the top smallmouth bass anglers realize that they must downsize their baits to consistently catch smallmouth bass. Even the biggest smallmouth bass will still eat smaller baits such as 2 to 3.5 inch crayfish, finesse-style worms, smaller crankbaits, swimbaits, etc. You can still catch plenty of big smallmouth bass with bigger baits too. Using 4 to 5 inch chubs on a big smallmouth bass water will usually get bit by bass in the 3 to 5 pound range and maybe even bigger.
When downsizing your baits, if you’re still catching plenty of quality bass, there is no reason to change. However, on some waters with lots of small bass, downsizing baits might not be as effective as the small bass will get to your baits before the big bass most of the time. On occasion, you may have to go bigger to have the success you want, however, don’t rule out the smaller baits as they do a great job of putting a lot of quality fish in the boat.
Fish Deeper Than Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth bass almost always prefer deeper water than largemouth bass, so if you’re used to fishing in 4 to 8 feet of water for largemouth bass, try fishing 8 to 15 feet. In most clear water lakes, plan on having the most success around drop-offs that drop anywhere from a couple feet deep to 30 plus feet. The 14 to 25 foot range is almost always a good place to start.
Overcast Days are Key for Clear Water
Most of the best smallie lakes will have very clear water. Lowlight conditions make fishing a lot easier and overcast days can provide some awesome fishing days.
Spring is Tough to Beat
In the spring when bass move into the shallows, you can catch good numbers of smallmouth bass and many larger fish too. Planning a trip in the spring on a great smallmouth bass lake is the easiest way to guarantee you a better chance of having a high numbers day.
Summer is Schooling Time
The summer can be tough on many anglers, but for those of you that figure out how to pattern smallmouth bass on offshore structure, the summer will lead to some awesome days on the water. On good waters, anglers sometimes report 30 to 50 fish days with most of the bass coming from just a few different schools of fish. Find them schooling on deep water structure and you can have some awesome fishing days.
In Late Fall, They School Up Big Time as Well
The fall can be an awesome time to fish for smallmouth bass. As water temperatures fall down below 60 degrees, you can usually find smallmouth bass schooling up on offshore structure. If you are fishing a lake that has some great offshore structure, this is the time of year to fish it because you can have some awesome days on the water. Find the fish and it’s a great time to catch a lot of bass in a hurry.
Smallmouth Bass Love Rocks
Find the rocks and you’ll most likely find plenty of smallmouth bass to target.
Smallmouth Bass Love Crayfish
In those rocks that you’ll be fishing, plan on using some crayfish imitation baits because that is the main reason why smallmouth bass are there. Smallies love eating crayfish in those rocky areas. Tubes are one of the better baits to use for smallmouth bass.
Smallmouth Bass Move A Lot – Cover Some Water
Don’t get locked into certain areas that held fish one day, because there’s a good chance the school of smallies moved. Smallmouth bass move a lot. If you don’t know how to bounce from spot to spot until you find them, your odds of catching big numbers of them go way down.
When fishing the rocky shorelines or large flats where smallies can often be found, you’re going to need to cover some water. Try swimming curly tail grubs, ringworms, small swimbaits and other types of swimming worms to cover more water and find active fish. Find a school and you may catch them in bunches.
In Clear Water, Finesse It Up
Smallmouth bass are found in some really clear water lakes. Try using lighter line and consider fluorocarbon line or at least a leader. Using 6 pound fluorocarbon line will help you get a lot more bites. Just match it with a light rod and a spinning reel so you can cast farther and avoid snapping a line on a bigger fish. Let them run if you get a big one. They most likely will once they see the boat.
In Dark Water, Make Some Noise
Smallmouth bass relate to noise really well. Crankbaits that rattle are a great way to catch them in murky water. Rattling jigs are also very productive and topwater can be great at times too.
Live Bait is Really, Really Tough To Beat
Smallmouth bass can easily be tempted to eat your live bait offering. Whether it’s a live nightcrawler, lively leech or minnow, it doesn’t really matter most of the time. Smallmouth bass love live bait.
Drop Shot Rigs are Awesome
A drop shot rig is so good because it allows you to keep your bait in the strike zone longer. The downside is that you are going to get hung up and lose plenty of weights in a rocky stream. Whether you fish live bait, finesse worms or other soft plastics, the drop shot rig is almost impossible to beat in streams.
Ned Rig Will Catch a Lot of Smallies
The Ned Rig is the perfect size for smallmouth bass and it’s a big numbers bait because of it. The smaller smallmouth bass will hammer it, which will get your total numbers up and big fish will hit it too though, so don’t be shocked to catch an occasional big bass while looking for numbers. Just hop it along the bottom and hold on.
Don’t Forget About the Grubs
A curly grub looks great when hopped along the bottom or swimming somewhere in the water column. It’s one of the best action baits for smallmouth bass.
Finesse Worms are Awesome Action Baits
Worms are great stream baits. A well-placed 4 inch finesse worm on a jighead or drop shot rig will get plenty of bites.
Topwater Lures Can be Very Good
If you get on a lake that has a good topwater bite going on, it’s an easy way to put lots of fish in the boat in a hurry. This is a timing thing though and some bodies of water don’t produce good topwater fishing at all. If you hit it right though, it can be a lot of fun and you can put big numbers of bass in the boat quickly.