Best Ways to Target Summer Smallmouth Bass
June 14, 2018
Change your techniques to stay ahead of the game and catch more smallmouth bass this summer.
If your heart doesn't skip a beat when a smallmouth bass grabs your lure, you better check your pulse. These bronze beauties are among the hardest-fighting fish in fresh water.
And, good news, summer is a great time to go after them — especially if you fish the right spots with the latest tactics. Here's how to make it happen.
WAYS OF THE SMALLMOUTH BASS
Smallies spawn in shallow water in late spring and early summer, when water temperatures reach 60 degrees or more. This is after walleyes and northern pike, but about the same time as other members of the sunfish family, including bluegills and largemouth bass.
Male bass linger near spawning beds to guard eggs and newly hatched fry, but as July rolls around, fish are settled into post-spawn patterns. Smaller 1- to 2-pound fish feed in depths of 3 to 8 feet. Bigger fish may go shallow when conditions are right, but consistently catching beefier bronzebacks often means deeper water.
Broad-shouldered bass often stage in 10 to 15 feet of water during the early post-spawn, roaming rocky structure for crayfish, baitfish and large aquatic insects. Going into July and August, the big bite typically moves even deeper, and often farther from shore.
Often, summer smallies seem to be here, there and everywhere, but some places always yield consistent hookups. "In general, the fish are set up a little deeper than they were earlier in the season," says Wired2Fish's Ryan DeChaine, who devotes countless hours each season to chasing smallmouths. "The fish spend less time near the surface, although insect hatches can draw them up.
"Some of the best spots are rocky humps topping out 15 to 20 feet beneath the surface," he continues. "The best humps typically offer a nice mix of different rock sizes, up to and including giant boulders, which are absolute bass magnets. Some form of woody cover, like a laydown, log or old cedar tree, sweetens the pot even more."
FIND SMALLMOUTH BASS FAST
High-quality sonar and GPS greatly speed up the search process. Start by reviewing lake maps before you leave home. Identify potential hotspots such as reefs, points and humps in your target depth range, and plug coordinates into your plotter to speed up the water recon.
When you hit the lake, scan these areas for fish and forage with sonar, and assess the overall quality of the structure.
"I rely on Humminbird's new high-frequency MEGA Imaging, which paints an amazingly detailed picture of what's under the surface, including rock sizes, bottom hardness transitions and bass," DeChaine says.
Scanning each piece of structure, note boulders, timber, isolated weed patches, funnels and other holding areas. Mark them for further exploration later this season and in years to come. Marking points of interest with icons or names that will jog your memory helps you remember why you dropped a waypoint over there in the first place.
Factor boat position into the equation. Plot angles of attack and where to pin the boat while probing prime lies with your favorite summer smallie presentations. Remember, factors such as waves, wind and the sun's position can affect how bass position themselves on or near structure and cover.
Fishing's the best way to confirm theories about potential honey holes. Often, fast-moving lures like a crankbait, spinnerbait or heavy, bottom-bouncing jig shine here. You can always slow down once you locate bass.
Smallmouth Bass in Space