Learn how smallmouth bass relate to various cover and structure.
On good smallmouth rivers, you can see anglers all along the dam, with waders on, trying to catch smallmouth. On larger rivers, the anglers may be in a boat, but fishing with waders on is a very popular way to fish a lot of the dams. Make sure you are careful in these areas because it can be very dangerous even if you know what you are doing.
Spillways are smaller areas where water pours out into the creek, river or lake, but it isn’t a big dam. Some of these areas will usually be feeder creeks that may sometimes push no water or little water into the larger body of water. However, when the rains come down, these areas will start pushing more water into the larger body of water and in some of these spots, the fishing can be awesome for smallmouth bass. Do your research when trying to find these spots because you need to know the prime times for fishing them. On some bodies of water, the spillway may only last a few hours after a rain and on others, the spillway feeds in the entire year.
The docks will hold smallmouth bass from spring through fall, however, the spring time is usually best. On some bodies of water, the docks may hold a lot of smallmouth bass while on others, the docks may not be productive at all. Spring is usually best when dock fishing for smallmouth bass, however, the deeper docks may hold bass all summer and fall.
Some lakes have huge flats that are home to tons of smallmouth bass early in the year. For example, there are many bays on the Great Lakes that have huge flats with water in the 2 to 8 foot range. Smallmouth bass move onto these flats early in the season as water temperatures warm up into the mid 50s and lower 60s. Fish these areas from pre-spawn through post-spawn and you can experience some awesome fishing.
On smaller bodies of water, you won’t have the same areas to fish in terms of size, but you will find areas with flats and the same thing applies on the smaller lakes as well. Fish the flats early in the year as water temperatures warm up and bass go through the 3 spawning phases.
Smallmouth bass can be found roaming around these underwater humps offshore. At times, they may be on top of the hump, other times on the edge and other times out in deeper water close to the underwater humps. To fish these spots better, it helps to have a good fish finder. You can pull up to these spots and see if there are any fish on them and where the fish are located. On some of these spots, if you are off by 20 to feet or so, it can be the difference in catching a limit or catching zero.
The best underwater humps will have rock on them, but don’t rule out weeds either because on some lakes, smallmouth bass relate to the weeds quite a bit too.
Fishing for smallmouth bass on reefs can be very productive. Depending on the lake you are fishing, you may or may not have the option of fishing a reef. The Great Lakes and other large lakes up north are known for having reefs. In spring, you may find some smallmouth bass around the reefs, but the summer and fall months is when you will usually find the large schools of smallmouth bass around the reefs.
During the summer and fall, smallmouth bass can often be found on top of the reefs, along the drop-offs running off the reefs and at times, suspended in open water very close to the reefs. When you can find reefs with lots of rock and some deep water nearby, you will most likely find some smallmouth bass. Some of these reefs will have 20 to 30 feet of water with water as shallow as 4 feet just a cast away. The reefs that offer a good mixture of shallow water and steep drop-offs tend to hold the most smallmouth bass. The shallow water will usually hold some bass in the early morning, evening and at night. The deeper water is where you will usually catch better numbers of smallmouth bass, especially if you are looking for bigger bass. It is not uncommon to catch smallmouth bass anywhere from 20 to 40 feet deep in clear water lakes.
The islands are the easiest offshore structure to fish because you can find them with your eyes. You don’t need any additional technology to find these spots. The downside of that is that all the other anglers can find them easily too, so they will usually get pressured more than an underwater hump offshore. Islands are great for smallmouth bass, especially if there is some deep water around them and some rocks.
Points are some of the best places to catch smallmouth bass. You can find bass on the points from spring through fall. The best points have some rocks, shallow water and deep water nearby. A steep drop off will likely hold more smallmouth bass, but a gradual drop-off is fine as long as there is some water that drops into the 16 to 20 foot depths.
Smallmouth bass absolutely love rocks and boulders. They spend more time along rocks and boulders than any other type of cover. These areas provide plenty of food such as insects, bait fish and especially crayfish.
On many bodies of water, the weeds will not hold nearly as many smallmouth bass as you will find around the rocks. However, on some bodies of water, the weeds will hold some smallmouth bass from spring through fall.
Smallmouth bass will definitely be found around wood, however, rocks are usually your best bet for targeting smallies on most waters. Just like with weeds, the best wood areas that hold smallmouth also have a hard bottom with a boulder or some rocks. When you’re looking for good wood areas that will hold smallmouth, try to find wood that offers lots of protection overhead, a hard bottom, deep water nearby and the more tree limbs that go in the water the better.