Best Ways to Target Summer Smallmouth Bass

Best Ways to Target Summer Smallmouth Bass
Summertime temps push smallies deep, but with the right gear and approach, you can bring in plenty of fish. (Photo by Ron Sinfelt)

smallmouth bass
Summertime temps push smallies deep, but with the right gear and approach, you can bring in plenty of fish. (Photo by Ron Sinfelt)

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.

bass fishing


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

 

TIMELY SMALLMOUTH BASS TACTICS

Minnow-imitating jerkbaits, tube jigs and drop-shot rigs are all standard fare for summer smallies. But DeChaine adds another presentation to the mix.

"Last season I adapted the Gene Larew Biffle Bug and Hardhead jig system to fit my style of fishing offshore summer smallmouths," he begins, explaining that the Biffle method, popularized by bass pro Tommy Biffle, features a bug- or beaver-style soft-plastic bait bumping quickly and erratically along bottom, like a deep-running crankbait.

"It's a great method of covering water and triggering reaction strikes from bass in a variety of settings," he says. "For best results in the areas I fish, I replaced the Hardhead with a VMC Swingin' Rugby Jig, tipped with a 4-inch paddletail swimbait. The combination mimics smallmouth forage, such as crayfish and baitfish like gobies and darter-type minnows."

DeChaine chooses plastics with ample tail action yet little body movement. "Swimbaits with a full-body wag tend to rise off bottom at slower speeds than baits with most of the action in the tail, like the Megabass Spark Shad," he says. "Whichever jig and softbait combo you choose, position the jig's hook at the center of the bait — in position for a solid hookset when bass attack."

Smallmouth Bass articles from G&F

DeChaine fishes this on a 6- to 7-foot, 2-inch medium-heavy rod with a high-speed reel with 15-pound fluorocarbon. To present the bait, he makes a long cast and lets the jig fall to the bottom. "I keep the rod at a 45-degree angle to the water and retrieve the jig quickly along the bottom, allowing it to careen off obstacles," he says.

Strikes often register as a lack of weight or bait movement as bass overtake and inhale the jig. "Test the bite by speed-reeling to load up the rod," he says. "If you feel the weight of a fish, make a sweeping hookset while continuing to reel. Then hang on."

DeChaine notes that repeating productive casts is critical to milking the most fish possible from an underwater sweet spot or aggressive school of bass. "Once you dial in the right depth, location and casting angle for attacking it, repeat the program until the spot runs out of biters," he says.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

MLF Pro Tips: Go-To Baits for the Spawn

MLF Pro Tips: Go-To Baits for the Spawn

Major League Fishing pros talk about the first lure they choose when targeting spawning bass.

13 Fishing Inception SZ

13 Fishing Inception SZ

Florida angling pro Jessie Mizell knows that the saltwater found in Sunshine State coastal fisheries can wreak havoc on even the best fishing gear. But with 13 Fishing's new feature laden Inception SZ saltwater baitcasting reel, tackling inshore and light tackle saltwater game fish just got a whole lot easier!

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

Lure Lock Options Includes LED Light Boxes & More

Lure Lock Options Includes LED Light Boxes & More

Pro angler Jonathan VanDam showcases new offerings at ICAST 2019, including the ultra-thin, big bait boxes, LED-lighted boxes and backpack-able gear lockers. With Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find the Garden State's hottest bass fishing. Destinations

7 Best Bets for New Jersey Bass

J.B. Kasper - October 04, 2010

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find the...

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish. Records

Upon Further Review: 70-Year-Old Catfish Record Voided

G&F Online Staff - May 22, 2019

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish.

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies can be profound, even when fishing the same lake or river. Catfish

How to Catch Catfish Day and Night

Terry Madewell - April 04, 2018

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies...

See More Trending Articles

More Bass

Todd A. Kuhn says hook geometry makes a huge difference in this episode of Beyond the Bait Powered by Streamlight. Beyond the Bait

Hook Selection for Soft-Plastic Bass Lures

Game & Fish Digital Staff - March 17, 2020

Todd A. Kuhn says hook geometry makes a huge difference in this episode of Beyond the Bait...

To pick the perfect bass fishing rod you must understand action and power. Rods

What Do Those Bass Rod Ratings Mean?

Josh Ward - March 16, 2020

To pick the perfect bass fishing rod you must understand action and power.

Dr. Todd A. Kuhn discusses why compact soft plastics are great options for bass in this episode of Beyond the Bait Powered by Streamlight. Beyond the Bait

Why Tube & Creature Baits Are Bass Magnets

Game & Fish Digital Staff - February 18, 2020

Dr. Todd A. Kuhn discusses why compact soft plastics are great options for bass in this...

Around the spawn is the best time of year to boat big bass. Follow these tactics for finding monsters. Bass

Target Trophy Spring Bass: Here's How

Larry Larsen - March 25, 2020

Around the spawn is the best time of year to boat big bass. Follow these tactics for finding...

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.