5 Tips to Catching Big Smallmouth
As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to catching smallmouth bass there are two kinds: Big smallmouth, and all the rest of them. I would categorize a big smallmouth as anything over 5 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 and have been fortunate enough to pick up on a few keys to putting more big ones in the boat and I’d like to share them with you. Read on to find my top 5 ways to catch bigger smallmouth.
1. Look for Moving Water
Big smallmouth are more lazy 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 and they can 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 accounted to big smallies for me 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 off-shore 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 hot-spots. 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 they will congregate in areas where the water is moving, bass will 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 its 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 its big bass you’re after this is an important time to do it. Not only are they up shallow, but they will be feeding aggressively at this time. Baits like spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and topwaters 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.
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