As far as I'm concerned, there are two kinds of smallmouth bass: big smallmouth, and everything else. I would categorize a big smallmouth as anything over five pounds. They fight harder, they're smarter, and they just don't come around that often (unless you happen to fish Lake Erie a lot).
I've spent a lot of time pursuing big smallmouth bass and have been fortunate enough to pick up on a few keys to putting more lunkers in the boat, and I'd like to share them with you. Read on to find my top five tips for catching big smallmouth bass.
1. Look for Moving Water
Big smallmouth are lazier than smaller ones and like to be where they can get an easy meal. For this reason they will hang out in spots where current will push food in their direction, allowing them to just hang out and wait. Creek mouths are great, as are any narrow parts of the lake where food gets filtered through and water current picks up. This is also one of the reasons why big rivers can be such incredible smallmouth fisheries.
2. Big Baits
You've probably heard the saying "big baits, big fish." Well, it's true. It's possible you can catch big smallmouth on tiny lures, but on average, bigger lures will pick off more of the bigger fish. It comes down to simple biology. Large animals need more food, so they will look for the largest prey they can easily swallow. 5" Zara spooks, 1 oz spinnerbaits, 6" Sebile Magic Swimmers and 7" lizards have all caught me big bass in the past. Always have a few big lures tied on if you're in an area known for big smallmouth.
3. Find Unpressured Fish
While this isn't always easy, spend some time fishing offshore in search of smallmouth that haven't seen many baits. Looking for humps or any unique changes in the lake typography can clue you into potential overlooked hotspots. Often these places will have schools of smallmouth on them, and often these fish are big. Big bass don't want to get hooked so look for them in areas that don't see many lures.
4. Don't Be Afraid of the Weather
Wind triggers feeding smallmouth. For the same reason that bass will congregate in areas where the water is moving, bass will also feed more where the wind is blowing. Wind gets the whole food chain going, from plankton to baitfish to predators, and if you're after the predators it's important to be there when they're feeding. The next time the wind is up on your favourite smallie lake, make sure your trolling motor batteries are fully charged, put on a jacket, and hunker down for some of the best action of the season. Storm fronts are another great time to catch big fish.
5. Be an Early Bird
Just as the early bird gets the worm, the early angler often gets the biggest fish. In the warmer months, many big smallmouth will only come shallow to feed in low-light conditions, especially the early morning. A huge portion of my biggest smallmouth have come before 7 a.m., so if it's big bass you're after this is a great time to do it. Not only are they up shallow, but they will be feeding aggressively at this time. Spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and topwater lures are good choices for morning bass.
Jesse Martin has caught over 100 smallmouth over 5 pounds, including a dozen over 6. His personal best is a 6-pound 6-ounce specimen from Osoyoos Lake, B.C. During the warmer months he works as a guide in the South Okanagan, targeting some of the biggest smallmouth bass in the world. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a trip.