Slow Down For Smallmouth Bass

Written By: Bill Adelman, March 12, 2012
Species: Bass

Generic Bass Image

Last time we chased a few smallies and spots. Spotted bass opportunities are probably lagging by now, but the smallmouth bite should be a solid WOW.

If there’s one “year in – year out” presentation that works for smallies, it’s SLOW DOWN! Yes, there are times when they’ll react quite positively to a fast moving crankbait, jerkbait or spinner. SPINNER? Did he say spinner? Yup.

The old tried and true Rooster Tail was the hot ticket for bronzebacks 40 years ago and still is an effective fish getter. This particular bait works extremely well in rivers, ie: the Russian and Feather. Just keep changing speeds until you hit on the most productive one.

In our lakes where shad and crawdads are the primary bait, lipped crankbaits in a shad or dad finish will get ‘em. Another old timer is the Rapala Shad Rap. This lure can be fished at almost any speed, but a slow and slightly erratic retrieve is a solid bet.

Try adjusting the straight retrieve by changing the manner in which you turn the reel handle. Two turns, stop, ½ turn, stop or slow down, three turns with an ever so slight twitch of the rod tip will alter the action just enough to grab the attention of a marauding bass.

Top water, floating surface lure. Huh? A very well known smallmouth guide, with whom I fished 25 years back, called my popper exactly that. Never argue with the guy running the boat!

For brown bass in relatively clear water, ie: Berryessa, have a few floating, diving baits. This bait is generally very light in weight, with a short, small lip, and is best fished on a spinning rod, 6-8# test mono. Fling it as far as you can, and especially for smallies, let it sit exactly where it lands for at least 30 seconds. A bass will fly up to the lure, then come to a complete stop within inches of it.

A teensy twitch just might activate the strike, but it’s gotta be teensy. Then stop again. The strike will hardly ever be solid. Most often the fish will just approach the lure and inhale it off the surface. Lift and crank.

When this doesn’t work, pop-n-stop the lure on the surface. At some point during your retrieve, lower the rod tip, crank down so that the lure dives 3-4 feet & crank it in somewhat erratically, however again, not too fast.

A given amount of pressure against the retrieve is generally a smallie. Don’t expect every grab to be vicious. Brownies just aren’t built that way. If you choose to vary the colors of shad and dad, for some reason, the fire tiger is a solid third choice.

Generally I fish only 5 rods when chasing smallmouth. One, for the entire day, will be rigged with a baby Zara. Color is the only adjustment to this rigging. There will be many locations where only one or two casts will be made, thus when you spot one, this is the time for the “Z”.

Should your choice of action be a quick, erratic movement of the lure, hold the rod tip high and speed up the walk. To slow it down, have the rod tip close to the water, with the walk twitch being straight down. Sure, it takes a tad of practice to master the walk, but when you do…whammo, fish on, sometimes.

Last year we brought out the 40+ year old Hula Popper and Jitterbug. They both caught bass. Of course, had to put new rubber on the Hula, as the original was crushed to dust, but, THEY WORKED. The Hula should be worked erratically while the bug should be a straight retrieve, no speed adjustments after you find the retrieve that provides the most “push” action. Keeping the old stuff in the forefront, the white with black ribs Devils Horse just tore em up. We tried other surface lures with one or two propellers, and they produced very positively.

What about the poppers, ie: the Rebel Pop-R? When they work, they work well. Another of my five rods will always have a straight body popper, generally with trailing rubber or flashabou. For some reason, this style lure works best when pounded as soon as it lands, for about eight feet, then stop, jerk-jerk, and repeat.

The exception might be when tossing over submerged cover in less than six feet of water. Fallen trees and/or a rocky bottom quite often holds resting bass, on the shady side of the cover. The popping sound will get their attention, but a bit of finesse will generally work better than speed.

So, what’s up for next time? SHAD, that’s what. Seeya then and Tight Lines!

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