Call it “Survivor: Smallmouth Style.”
Tell a professional angler he’s going smallmouth fishing somewhere that has a huge population of big bronzebacks and watch the smile spread across his face faster than a gar skinning a minnow. Then inform him that he’s getting no hints on where you’re taking him. He won’t know whether it’s a river, a natural lake or an impoundment. That smile will shrink back down a bit. Then limit him to a pound of tackle. Welcome to frownsville.
But upon a little bit of further consideration, most of them can narrow their tackle selections pretty quickly to adapt to a wide range of fishing conditions and situations. While there are, of course, a wide range of lures that’ll work, go with the following five and you can cover a lot of water – and be privileged to wipe a lot of brown fish slime off of your hands.
|Bass Pro Shops Tender Tube|
A tube is the workhorse of the smallmouth world. With an inserted leadhead, it’s best known for dragging across the rocky shoals of the Great Lakes and other northern inland oceans, imitating the plentiful gobies and crawfish that smallmouth crave. But that’s not its only application. Find those fish on the beds in shallow water and the spiraling downward sashay often proves irresistible. Creep it down rocky points or pitch it Texas rigged to shallow cover and you’ll often be rewarded with an arm-bending strike.
Go to colors: Shades of green pumpkin and watermelon with varied flakes; white for spawning fish.
Edwin Evers, normally considered a largemouth guru, averaged over 21 pounds of smallmouths a day to win the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Lake Erie, using a variety of soft plastics threaded on a dropshot rig. It’s become the key, never-leave-home-without-it rig for fishing 12 months out of the year, coast to coast, from 6 inches of water to 100 feet depths. Even when the wind is bucking like a bronco, the little bait just flat out catches fish. It may take a while to become an expert, but even a complete novice can catch smallmouths this way because natural currents do most of the work.
Go to colors: green pumpkin, shades that represent shad, multi-color laminates. This bait can be a goby, a craw or any baitfish that swims.
Watch this video about: How to Tie a Drop Shot Fishing Rig
|Rapala Shadow Rap Deep Jerkbait|
Smallmouth feed visually and in clear water they’ll come a long way to knock the tar out of a wildly moving jerkbait. Some days they want it fast, other days they’ll crush it on the pause, but whether they’re chasing pelagic schools of bait or lone stragglers, the savage motions enable it to stand out from the pack.
Go to colors: Clown or blue back with clear sides.
|Heddon Zara Spook|
Just as the jerkbait moves side to side beneath the surface, a big walk-the-dog topwater lure calls fish to it by virtue of its drunken gait. Just be sure you hold on to your rod, because a smallmouth rocketing up through 40 feet of the water column can blast a spook into the next county. You won’t always get a lot of bites with it, but some of the biggest fish of the year can’t resist its evil charms. It works earlier in the year and later in the year than you might expect.
Go to colors: Bone, gold with black back.
|Bass Pro Lazer Eye Spinnerbaits – Double Willow|
Four time Bassmaster Classic winner Kevin VanDam made a lot of money in the early part of his career burning a big spinnerbait for smallmouth. They like bright colors and fast retrieves, and with today’s reels in the 7:1, 8:1 and 9:1 range, there’s no excuse for not reeling fast enough. Heavy lures, ¾ of an ounce and up, can be retrieved at warp speed without breaking the surface. Just make sure that you use a trailer hook, because smallmouths are notorious for slapping at a bait but not getting hooked.
Go to colors: The gaudier the better. Try a chartreuse skirt with twin chartreuse willowleaf blades, but don’t stop there. Sometimes neon orange or bubblegum pink can do the trick.