Saturday, May 21, 2016

Smallmouth Spring: Three Days Hunting the King of Bass

Smallmouth bass are certainly one awesome freshwater fish. If I had to choose one warm water species to target for the rest of my life, it would be a tricky competition between three species: carp, muskie, and smallmouth bass. I think I would probably pick smallmouth. They are tenacious, powerful, and brutal. They take a fly with the vigor and power of a pike and they fight like demons.

What could make smallmouth more fun? Fighting them in shallow water. In the spring, when the water begins to push over 60 degrees smallmouth bass start thinking about spawning. They start to move up the rivers hunting for good spawning gravel, and to the shallow flats of the lakes. The past three days I've fished exclusively for smallies, and it was quite an experience.

Day One:

I started out Thursday evening in the tidal water of my favorite smallmouth river to see whether they had moved up into the "trout water" yet. I didn't catch any, of course the tide was just awful. Perch were the only eaters there. Tons of spot-tail shiners and some blueback herring told me that some schoolies would probably show up during a good tide.

Upstream from the dam I began to get bigger takers. Some jumping rainbows managed to throw the barbless hook, and then a few smallmouth in good looking pocket water did the same. One was in the five pound range. I got a little worked up over loosing that one. I decided that maybe a barbless hook was not a good plan of attack for bass.

Vitreous mayflies were out in force, and both smallmouth and trout were after them. I tied on a Chernobyl Ant hoping the trout would be less likely to eat it. No such luck. 

In this long, flat pool there were tons of trout and bass rising. A few were just massive rainbows, in the 8 lb. range. The bass were easy to see, the way their mouths are shaped makes them have a distinctly different rise form. I could elaborate, but I'd rather you all go fishing and learn this stuff for yourselves.... it's just more fun that way.

I changed to a big Mongral Meat and on the third cast it got taken by a very nice river smallie, the first to hand of the day.

A short time after that I got a second one on a clouser, this one was not so big!

Some how, some way, I lost a section of my rod on the walk out. because I had covered a very large section of stream and crossed it a few times I as pretty sure I wasn't going to find that piece ever again. The next day I went out to look for it. Guess where It was? about two feet from the spot I stopped and noticed it was missing.

Day Two:

With a full rod again I decided to stay the evening and try to improve on the previous day's catch.

Mega Hungry Turtle
 I didn't have any interest in my streamer, a brown and yellow Circus Peanut, until I got back up to that big flat pool. I caught two nice smallmouth on short order.

Once again I couldn't completely avoid the stockers, a brookie and a couple little bows went for an olive CP.

This time of year you never know what type of water the bass will be in. I managed to get a few in the 8 to 10 inch range out of this fast riffle.

As the light began to fade I changed to a yellow and brown Double Deceiver. That too a few fish, including a little brookie. The bass were hard takers, often coming ten feet in the clear water to inhale the streamer. If it was shallow they made a big wake and a hell of a commotion on the hook set.

Day Three (The Grand Finally):

Today was going to be a decent day for smallmouth, I knew that well before I got on the water. Conditions were just perfect. I was going to fish the lake, looking for bedded and pre-spawn smallmouth in shallow water. I biked the shoreline slowly, and I ran into a couple of carp but not enough to get in a fuss about. I'm sure it won't be long before the early A.M. feeding binge is on full force, but today was the bass's day.

The first smallmouth came out of about 5 feet of water, and I don't think it was on a bed. It clobbered a purple and black leech and jumped a couple times before running and bulldogging hard. At just over two pounds, it was a solid, hard fighting tank of a fish.

The next fish was the first smallmouth I have ever seen bedded up in that classic bass fashion. I know that sounds crazy, but I rarely see conditions as good as there were today for sight fishing to bedded bass. Another local guy who was there pointed her out to me, and I tried hard to get her to eat. 20 minutes went by and I made very little progress. As we were getting out the gentleman who had stayed and watched the drama said "you know when you come back it'll eat in just one cast. He was right. She did. I didn't hook her though the next cast, she just inhaled my clouser. This was a much better fish, one of those nice 18 inch class smallies. She put on a hell of a show when I set the hook. In shallow water there are only two directions for a bass to go, out and up. In terms of fun fights, those are the best possible directions. This fish tail walked and jumped, charging right at me. The she did a couple of powerful runs and a few more jumps. In these parts freshwater fishing doesn't get much better than that!

I caught a couple of smaller males off of little beds before I found another big bed. This one didn't have a fish sitting on it that I could see, but when I dropped my clouser onto it a nice bass came streaking over to smash the invading fly. It was about the size of the first fish, and fought just as tremendously. It was just so beautiful too, green and bronze with bright red eyes. Of course the photos don't do those crimson eyes credit at all.

So that's that for my three day smallmouth hunt. It was quite a ride. Now I just need some huge largemouth and stripers to complete the bass slam.



  1. That photo of the yellow perch is striking.
    Very nice Rowan.

    1. Perch are a pretty fish, but the shadow of the bridge did most of the work there I think!
      Thanks Alan.

  2. "Well done" That was a great three day blast for smallies and all a good size.
    Glad you found your rod extention! Nothing worse than owning half a good rod.
    Tie, fish, write and photo on...

    1. Thanks,
      Actually since it was a four piece it was even worse!

  3. Great Post along with all the photos. You certainly have caught/released a wide variety of species of fish. Nice job on your three day pursuit!!

    1. Being that I tend to loose interest with things that lack variation, I like to spread my effort on as many species and locations as possible. It makes things more enjoyable I think.