Smallies After The Spawn

June 12, 2018

Paul McCue FishUSA Ambassador Cold Water Bass Baits

Well, in the north, the spawn is done for smallmouth bass. Now, that may be very different timing depending on exactly where in the north we are talking about. In the Great Lakes, it has been documented that smallmouth may spawn into July as deep as 20 feet on the clear, cool, big lakes! In the Allegheny River, there is a smaller window dictated by water temperature, river flow, and moon phase. What I would like to examine in this article is not the immediate days after a smallmouth spawns, or when the dog days of summer set in. I would like to look at the period from late May until the Fourth of July on most waters north of the Mason-Dixon Line. This is a time of year when the water temperature is still cool, and the bronzebacks need to feed and recuperate from the spawn. This is when I focus on aggressively feeding fish. If they are not biting in one spot, you better believe they are biting somewhere. I do not like to spend much time in one area without a bite. I feel the more water I can cover, the better my chances are.

In the Great Lakes, this time period lasts the longest. It may stretch form May through June and into July. Now, most of us know that many of the smallmouth in the Great Lakes can be caught using two techniques, a tube and a drop shot. However, it is not the only way to catch these big smallmouth after they spawn. It is not very well know, and talked about even less, but there can be a tremendous shallow bite in June and early July on the Great Lakes. Areas between four and eight feet deep can be where some of the biggest bass may be. They are looking for easy meals of gobies, perch, and other baitfish. First, look for long, tapering points on your graph or lake map. Once you find these points, look for areas where the bottom composition is different from the rest of the area. Look for large boulders and irregular bottom contours. Baits I like to fish include a large chartreuse War Eagle spinnerbait (I also like chartreuse blades), Bill Lewis Rattle Traps, Lucky Craft LV500 Lipless Crankbait rattle baits, Keitech swimbaits, and Rapala Shad Raps. Make long casts, and cover water.

Paul McCue FishUSA Ambassador Cold Water Bass Baits

In rivers and lakes, I still like to cover water. Smallmouth will group up in small gangs. Two to five fish are common. Where should you look? In a reservoir, look at secondary points. These are the first points you come to outside of a spawning flat. Typically, they may be the last point before the main body of water. In a river, it is easy, look for current breaks. The bronzebacks will almost always stop on these areas looking to feed after the spawn. This is a very typical pattern until the water reaches the lower to mid-70 degree range. What are the best ways to catch these fish? I really like to simplify my fishing and cover as much likely water as possible. My top three baits are: 1. Topwater baits 2. Crankbaits 3. Soft plastic jerkbaits. My top choices for topwater are Lucky Craft Sammy, Whopper Plopper, and Rapala X-Rap Pop. My work-horse bait is a crankbait. At any given time fishing smallmouth from May to July, I will have at least three crankbait rods on the deck. My favorite lures on the business end of the rod are as follows: Lucky Craft LC, Bandit 200 Series, and Rapala DT series. When the water clears up, and fish get harder to catch, a soft jerkbait gets the nod. Use a spinning rod spooled up with 10 lb Sunline SX1 braid with an 8-12 lb Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon leader. Zoom Flukes and Case Plastics Sinkin Salty Shad and Minnow will get the job done. Jerk them, and let them fall just out of sight, and jerk them back towards the surface. This dying minnow type action is a real winner on flowing rivers.

Remember, this is a time of year to cover water and enjoy the fishing. August is a time to slow down and finesse fish that don’t want to bite. My philosophy at this time of year is that the more fish I show my bait, the better chance I have of catching one!

Tight Lines!