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Summertime Smallies!

By: Jim Root , 1:11 AM GMT on July 14, 2014

For people from the North, smallmouth fishing is a way of life. Big Lakes with big waves, producing legendary bronzebacks. These fish routinely come completely out of the water while being reeled in, and often the fiercest action doesn't begin until they've seen the boat. If you haven't had the opportunity to experience this for yourself, I highly recommend it. There are many bodies of water offering exquisite smallmouth fishing: Erie, Ontario, Simcoe, Cayuga, Susquehanna River, Champlain, St. Claire, St. Lawrence River, Pickwick, Smith Mountain, are just a few of the many options anglers can choose from when seeking big smallmouth bass. While you won't find these fish to reach the size of their greener cousins, smallmouth pound-for-pound have a reputation for packing twice the punch. There's no denying that. One thing that isn't debatable is that some of those lakes produce very nautical conditions that can be very dangerous. Weather Underground has wave conditions for those big lakes, and you should check them before going and heed the advice that's posted there when bad weather is predicted.

When the summer heats up, the bigger smallmouth move deep. Now deep is of course a relative term, and varies from lake to lake. Typically though, you'll be fishing in water that's over 25 feet, with techniques like drop shot, carolina rigging, tubes, cranking, etc. My two favorite presentations in this time of year are drop shot and a tube. The drop shot is my go-to bait, its' finesse characteristics will trigger bites in the toughest days, and I use a 1/0 Trokar Hook, which allows me to use really big baits if I need to. I look for isolated humps, that are often found just by idling around in an area where it appears flats on my graph. Typically you'll find these small unmarked rock piles that aren't on your Navionics cards hold some great fishing, particularly because they're often driven over by other people who are just looking to run to the hotspots on their charts. Target the ones that aren't shielded from the wind first and foremost. This wind will increase the feeding activity because it'll stir up the baitfish and instigate more bites. If the fish are biting well, the tube is my preferred method because it always delivers bigger fish. I use a magnum flipping tube, and rig it texas with a half ounce tungsten weight, pegged, and snap it quickly to make it bounce off the bottom. If they hit it and miss it, let it fall. They'll come back.

Here are a few other tips from some of my friends! Good luck and be safe.

Carrie Cartwright, Ontario Canada
Okuma Pro

As warmer days approach the fish will move into deeper water. Basically they move off of their spawning beds to nearby structure such as rock shoals or deep holes. Wind direction can be a big factor in finding the fish. In my experience they seem to sit on the side opposite the wind and water direction, seeking a habitat where they can hide and ambush their prey while being protected from the current. Smallmouth bass are notorious for moving great distances in short periods of time: here today gone tomorrow type of behavior. This can be frustrating to the angler. If you have found them in late spring/early summer chances are they are still in the same general area and have moved to deeper water.

I find that drop shotting will produce bigger fish at all different times in the season. This approach can be used in all different bodies of water. It’s my favourite approach for many different species because it has very little limitations. I also like to use deep diving crankbaits or jerkbaits to see if fish are in the area then follow it up with a drop shot for larger fish.

Jimmy Kennedy, Vermont
Skeeter/Cabot Pro

My favorite method/technique to catch big, summertime smallmouth is dropshotting deep, isolated structures, such as boulders, humps, ledges, wrecks, etc., with an XZone slammer. Many factors can affect this type of fishing but, for me anyway, none more than wind and cloud cover. From years of experience, some good days and some not so good, I’ve found that each of these spots are better with a particular wind direction, and that the smallies usually (but not always) concentrate better on the deeper spots with a bright sun.

I spend hours upon hours in the offseason searching for this type of structure, mostly in the 25’ to 40’ range, and through trial and error, learn the best wind direction for each waypoint. I then mark the waypoint according to these factors, such as SBoulderN or CHumpW, with the first letter representing the cloud cover, or lack thereof and the last letter representing the wind direction.

I start off in the morning with a Rapala X-Rap Pop for those looking up and then quickly switch to a tube jig and the dropshot.

Anthony Lorefice, Binghamton NY
Livingston Lures

Chasing smallmouth can be a difficult task during summer months. In big lakes your electronics are your best friend, these smallies are in their post spawn patterns. Finding bait fish or any structural change whether it is rubble piles, humps, holes, drop-offs, ledges, difference in bottom composition, etc. is key to catching them. River systems or places that have current is where I excel the most in catching smallmouth during the summer. I look for two things, rip rap rock banks and any form of an eddy (something that breaks up, stops, or changes direction of the water current). Smallmouth will sit behind these current breaks in the calm water, waiting to ambush prey, that are being pushed down current. I use a few baits that work well in both lakes and river systems. First is a crankbait ranging from lipless - deep diver just make sure your crankbait remains with bottom contact and is deflecting off the bottom, based on the depth you are fishing. Some crankbaits that I use a lot are the Livingston Lures Dream Master Classic or the Storm Arashi Flat 7.

John Mcgoey, Ontario Canada
Shimano/Goodyear Pro

Big thing for me is drive break lines watching my graph to find bigger fish and look for bait!! Once I have found the right depth range I look at that depth on the rest of the lake to find more of the same stuff. The bigger fish will hang near those suspended ledges where they can move from deeper, cooler water, to shallow feeding areas.

Tyler Meadows, Staunton VA

At Smith Mountain Lake I look for clear water with pea-gravel bottom or some small rock piles and I'll either throw a drop shot or a tube with neutral colors. Be careful that you don't use too heavy a line. The water is already pretty clear as it is and you won't get as many bites with line heavier than 8 pound test.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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About JimRoot

I'm Jim Root, one of the most published anglers on the topic of fish behavior as it relates to weather conditions. If you have questions let me know!

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