For many years the smallmouth bass has been the target of many of North America’s anglers. Three things keep this beautiful fish at the top of the charts for freshwater sport fishing in America; how easy they are to catch, the range of their habitat and the large amount of fight that even the smallest smallmouth bass can put up.
Where to find smallmouth bass
The smallmouth bass is found throughout almost every single state in the US (sorry Alaska) and is known to be particularly abundant amongst the north-eastern states, states like Wisconsin and Michigan are particularly well populated by the species. Part of the beauty of this species is just how many different creeks, rivers and lakes you can catch them in. Chances are, if you’ve got a body of water near-by, you’re in luck.
Now onto some more specifics. Unlike largemouth bass, the smallmouth bass prefers creeks and lakes that are cleaner, swifter moving and colder. It should also be noted by any budding angler that, should the weather get too cold, the smallmouth bass has been known the migrate to warmer regions or to deeper pools were they become much less active.
During this semi-hibernation the bass feed much less than usual and this of course makes it a lot harder to catch one. If you’re fishing an area during a time where it’s commonly below 60 degrees, it is very likely that the fish relocated to a deeper section of the water and even there it will be harder to get a bite. These fish do not play around either; they’ve been known to migrate up to 12 miles in a single day and their migratory treks are often in excess of 60 miles.
Now if you’re lucky enough to live in one of the previously mentioned states (Wisconsin and Michigan) you’re also lucky enough to be living right near some of the best fishing you can shake your rod at. Those from Michigan particularly have a pick of many amazing bodies of water, Grand Traverse Bay, Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie and of course Lake Michigan are all known for some truly amazing fishing. Wisconsin has what is largely regarded as the best area for smallmouth bass fishing in the entire country, Sturgeon Bay. The Mississippi River is also a great pick for Wisconsinites that for some reason can’t or don’t want to fish in Sturgeon Bay.
After you’ve picked the body of water you want to set up in it is time to look at exactly where in it you want to fish. Seek out a spot with clearer water and a lot of structure. During warmer weather you want to be looking to rockier river mouths and more shallow water. Sandy shallow creeks that you can wade into also make for great fishing. However, when it is colder, often times the best bass fishing is to be had around ridges and drop-offs in the water approximately 35 to 50 feet down. This is when the fish migrate to deeper water as discussed earlier.
How to catch smallmouth bass
One of the things that makes smallmouth bass such a highly sought out and popular fish in North America is the fact that they can be caught with almost any kind of tackle reasonably well. They aren’t a hard fish to hook but their fight is amongst the best you will get, especially for a fish of their size. The male smallmouth bass is an extremely territorial fish, and when you hook it, it’s going to put up one heck of a fight. You’ll want to feel this fight.
For this reason, I’m going to recommend the Duckett Micro Magic Pro for the more experienced angler. I suggest going with the 7’ Medium Light Action (spinning version). This rod is made of a sturdy carbon fibre, is incredibly durable, and really allows you to feel your way through the water. Using a rod like this is almost like having eyes in the lake, you can virtually see all the little ridges, the vegetation, the rocks within the water. If you’re not willing to spend this much money on a rod right away, a cheaper 6-7’ Ugly Stik or Shimano rod and reel combo will do almost as well, at a fraction of the price. I recommend picking up a more basic Shimano spinning reel to go along with any of these rods, cheap and fairly sound, they’ll do you well.
Line is simple, more experienced anglers should go for a super-line braid as it will allow them, much like the rod, ‘see’ into the water. However, beginners may find this troubling, too much information can be a bad thing. Especially when you’re just starting out. Those newer to fishing should go for a copolymer instead. Size wise you’ll want 8-pound test or maybe 10-pound test if you’re really looking for bigger fish, any heavier and your reel may not be able to handle the stiffness of the line, any lighter and you’ll end up losing fish.
Tackle is where it starts to get a little tricky, smallmouth bass go for just about anything. Seriously, they will bite on anything. A personal favourite of mine is to use a 6-inch Zoom Lizard or a similarly sized cray soft plastic, great for use almost anywhere. Throw one of these bad boys in with the rest of our recommended set-up, tie it all together with a Carolina-rig and you’ll be good to go. Just wind this in while bobbing it between about 5 inches up and the bottom and you’ll get a bite in no time.
Other than that I recommend an inline spinner (perfect for clearer water) and a nice swim bait, the vibration will set off fish from all around and they will flock. Right onto your hook. Just reel them in and be sure to keep a finessed but varied action. These work great with a shaky head rig and a nice slow retrieve.
You may also enjoy reading: Best Topwater Lures For Smallmouth Bass – My Top Picks
Alternatively, chatterbaits and buzzbaits are also very commonly used for bass fishing. Check out their respective articles to find out how to fish with each of them however I’d recommend sticking with one of the above set ups for tackling smallies in clearer water.
There you have it, some bass fishing tips to show you how to catch smallmouth bass. Share with us your thoughts in the comments below.