A Smallmouth Bass Fishing Guide: How to Catch Smallies
There are many species of bass that make the perfect game fish, such as white bass, striped bass and largemouth bass. However, smallmouth bass fishing is one of the most popular activities for anglers. This species of bass have a mouth much smaller than largemouth bass, hence the nickname, “smallie.”
But they can also be around the same size as a largemouth bass. For our complete guide of expert tips to make your next bass fishing outing a success, you can check out our guide right here.
You can fish for smallies in many places around the country. Throw on your sunglasses and take your kayak out to a lake or river to see what you can find. But it helps to know where to look for these fish for your fishing trip to be more successful.
You also must have the right gear for smallmouth bass fishing. Keep reading to find out what kinds of rods, reels, bait and lures work best for finding smallies.
Where to Find Smallmouth Bass
It might be easier for you to find smallmouth bass around the Midwestern part of the United States. Anglers find smallmouths around the northern ends of the Mississippi River and along the Great Lakes. You can also find them in the basins of the Hudson Bay in Canada.
You could also find smallmouth bass at some lakes around the western end of the United States. In fact, Lake Powell and Lake Tahoe are among the best large lakes to find smallies along with other fish such as trout, walleye, and pike. The key to smallmouth bass fishing is to look for areas where the conditions are warm and the water is moving well.
It is easier to hook smallies where they are most likely to spawn. These fish are often at depths of about 20 to 30 feet, although they can get closer to the surface when it gets warmer. This is a depth where spawning often takes place at as it is easier for bass to see where they are going. Anything lower might be too dark and difficult for them to see through.
Look at how well the water moves when you go smallmouth bass fishing. It is easier to find smallies in areas that the water is moving through. Smallies often stick around where the water flows quickly so they can wait for food to come to them. Look at a narrow section of a lake when finding smallies. Of course, you can always simplify things by using a top tier fish finder.
Similar to other fish, It is easy for the water to move through such a section as food filters its way through the landscape. The water will pick up the food as it moves along. Check the mouth of rivers or creeks where water is more likely to flow along. The regular motion of water makes it easier for you to spot smallmouth bass, too.
Smallmouth bass are intolerant of polluted water because they struggle to thrive and spawn in it. So, check the water conditions of any lake or river before you go smallmouth bass fishing to see if it is clean. Such a spot will make it easier for you to find smallies. Cleaner water is safer to fish in because you won’t become sick, too. Also, you won’t have to deal with debris or odor from the water, which is unpleasant for both humans and fish.
Best Times for Hooking Smallies
You can fish for smallmouth bass any time of the year. But you will have a better chance at finding them if you go smallmouth bass fishing during the summer season. The summer season is a time when smallies are more active. As the water temperature rises, their metabolism increases. Smallmouth bass require more food at this point and they become more active in the water. The hungry bass will also be more interested in whatever bait you have, too.
Pond, lake and river levels drop during the summer season, too. This makes it easier to catch these fish. It is difficult to find smallies when the conditions get cooler. These fish typically migrate into the deepest parts of the water when the temperatures get to 60 degrees Fahrenheit or less. This is when they go into a mild state of hibernation. The fish will wake up when the waters become warm again, but they not stay active.
Fly Fishing for Smallies
There are times when smallies come close to the surface, so fly fishing is an option. Such fish are popular to find in a fly fishing space as they are often larger than most other fish in a particular area.
But it is often easier for smallies to spawn when it is warmer out. They will be more likely to get to the surface when it becomes warm. So, go fly fishing when the conditions are warm enough for spawning.
If you’re new to fly fishing, our beginner’s guide to fly fishing on lakes and rivers makes a good starting point.
Getting the Right Gear
Get the best possible equipment ready if you want to catch smallmouth bass. You will need a quality rod as well as the proper bait or lure to attract them. Here’s what you should bring on your next smallmouth bass fishing trip:
Best Rods for Smallmouth Bass Fishing:
Your rod must be long enough to support the weight of a smallmouth bass, but still easy to control. In most cases, the rod should be around seven inches long. Such an extended rod allows you to cast your line out a little further. It also allows you to get your bait out further from your boat. As a result, the fish will easily spot the bait or lure. However, the length should still be short enough so you can control the rod.
Reeling in Smallmouth Bass:
A six-pound reel is the best option for fish in this size range. This kind of reel has a softer surface and is lightweight. It moves around well and allows your lure or bait to shift around quickly. This creates a natural motion that the smallie will be more interested in, thus improving your chances of finding one of these fish in the water.
Related Read: Find Your Best Baitcasting Reel for Fishing: Reviews
Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tips for Kayaks and Boats:
A kayak or boat is also a necessity to have for your smallmouth bass fishing trip. You must have something that is not too large, though. A simple kayak that is around seven to 10 feet in length gives you extra control over the vessel. It also avoids producing too much shade over the water. This allows fish to see where they are going without creating anything blinding.
Smallmouth Bass Bait Tips:
Finding bait for fishing for smallies is simple. Fortunately, these fish love all sorts of food. So the food you can feed to smallies can vary. Tadpoles, crayfish, and various aquatic insects are suitable for smallmouth bass bait.
Some reports even suggest that you could feed bass French fries, if they are in the mood. The bait should be small at around two to six inches in length. Keep it small so smallmouth bass can grab it easily.
Fly Fishing Baits:
You will have to use traditional flies for bait if you want to go fly fishing for smallies during the warmer times of the year. Fly fishing baits should also be large enough. Flies that are around one to two inches in length are easier for a smallie to spot in the water.
The fly fishing baits you use should also sink into the water quite well. Apply a small weight to a bait to make it move down deeper into the water. It is difficult for smallies to move high enough in the water, so you might have better luck finding them when your fly fishing bait sinks into the water.
Lures for Attracting Smallmouth Bass:
You can use lures to find smallmouth bass. The lure should look like another fish in the water to attract smallies to it. But that does not mean you can use just any kind of lure when finding a smallie. Here are a few pointers to observe when looking for lures for smallmouth bass fishing:
- The ideal length for a lure is around four to six inches. This should be enough for the smallie to handle without being overwhelming
- Add a scent to your lure. Garlic is a perfect scent to apply when finding smallies
- Find reflective lures to make them easier for smallies to spot. Such lures may simulate the naturally bright scales that many smaller fish have.
- Spinners can help you cover a larger amount of water. Such lures will cut through the water with ease.
- Any lure with a fast jerking motion is worth using. Such a lure will create a quick shaking motion that makes it look like a crayfish or other small creature trying to get away. This is appealing to smallies because they go after anything that appears to be food.
What to Avoid (Beginner Mistakes)
While there are many things you should do when smallmouth bass fishing, here are some things you should avoid:
- Avoid fishing for smallies at night. The evening hours are when smallies will move down into the deepest parts of the water. They will not be active, either.
- Don’t fish directly into a current. Look for bass in areas outside the current where the water is moving, but not overly strong. Getting into a current is challenging as it is harder for you to control your boat, though.
- Avoid using lures that are too heavy. While longer lures up to six inches in length are fine, they should still be light enough to move through the water with ease. Stick with lures that are around one ounce in weight.
- Forget the nets when trying to catch smallmouth bass. It is easy for fish to shift around in a net and escape your grasp. You will have an easier time catching fish when you just use a rod and reel in lieu of a much larger net.
How to Avoid Catching Runts
There might be times when you keep on catching the smaller smallmouth bass. That is, those fish might be just one or two pounds each. Feel free to move towards another area if you keep on finding such small fish. It is easier for larger smallies to drift apart from the smaller ones.
Tapping into places where large schools of fish don’t congregate could be the best thing to do when looking for the largest fish.
There’s one important rule to always remember: Have fun! Many beginning bass fishers become so involved in doing everything correctly that they become stressed and overwhelmed.
There is a lot of equipment and concepts to understand at first. But as long as you remember to enjoy the process, you’ll learn quickly. Before you know it, you’ll hook bass five pounds and larger and be the one giving out bass fishing tips to your friends. And that’s something worth bragging about!
Smallmouth bass fishing is rewarding if you know when and where to find them. Make sure you bring all the right gear, too. This guide should help you plan your smallmouth bass trip carefully, so you will get the most from it.
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