Dropping Down for Smallmouth Bass!...
I recently went on a family vacation and spent a lot of time fishing a new lake. I've been to this lake two times now and have only fished for largemouth bass. The lake has an abundant amount of weedy bays down trees and just about everything you would want for largemouth habitat. The Largemouth fishing has always been pretty good here. However, the first few days of the trip were really tough fishing for them. The water was maybe just too warm for them at 84+ degrees in the shallows. So I decided to switch game plans and go for Smallmouth instead.
This paid off. My brother in Law and I went out and just slammed them. I'm going to tell you how we did using just 2 very effective techniques and very simple ways to find them and catch them. You can try this on any new body of water in central Ontario that you're going to.
Location, Location, Location
Boating this lake I noticed a lot of rocky shoals marked everywhere by buoy markers and on my GPS chart. I figured I would try all of these shoals and see what happens. We head to the first rock pile and start in a bout 20 feet of water and work all around it slowly moving up to 6ft of water. Starting deep then going shallower lets you work the water depths to find out what depth they might be in. Always look for rock piles that have lake contours leading right up to the shoal if you can. Smallmouths tend to travel along these contours leading to shoals. That being said, our first rock pile was in the middle of nowhere surrounded by 80 feet of water and was loaded with fish. On any lake if you see a rock pile or shoal no matter what size, stop and fish it using these 2 simple techniques and you will be sure to get some Smallmouth.
The 2 Techniques:
With two of us in the boat I decided we should try and use 2 different techniques. One of us used a fast moving jerk bait, and the other, a slow presenting drop shot bait. When you have 2 in a boat this works really well. It allows you to search for active fish using the jerk bait and also not so active fish using a drop shot. Let the fish tell you what they want. If your only catching them on one lure and not the other than you know what to do.
For this trip we caught them using both. Usually finding them using a jerk bait, then slowing it down using the drop shot once we found them. A lot of times we saw schools of Smallmouth chasing our jerk bait but not committing to hitting them. This is when we would slowdown knowing they are there after locating them, and using a slower presentation like the drop shot.For the jerk bait we simply used the Rapala X-rap suspending model. For rods and line we used a Kistler 6'8" medium to medium heavy action rod, with 15 to 20 lb braid and 10lb fluorocarbon line as a leader.
This lake was fairly clear so we used more natural colors like the ghost pattern and the olive green as well. With the boat sitting on the outside of the piles we would cast to the rocks and work our bait out. Also, working parallel to drop works when you find out what depth there are sitting in. Smallmouth will come up to chase these from quite a distance. I like to use what I call a jerk, jerk pause retrieve. Just cast the jerk bait out, and start by jerking your lure twice then pause it for a few seconds, reel in a bit, jerk it twice then pause it, then reel it in. I will vary the amount of jerks with the length of the pause throughout the day. Don't be afraid of really jerking it with erratic jerks. This is what gets the Smallmouth's attention, and a lot of times they will slam it on the pause. This takes a bit of time to get used to if your new at it, but a very simple technique once you got it. Try this out anytime of the year for Smallmouth and I guaranty you will have success.
A general rule of thumb, the colder the water the slower the retrieve, the warmer the water the faster.For the drop shot techniques, I simply use one lure and that's the Strikezone tournament bait called the slammer. This lure will catch fish anywhere on any lake and is so simple to use. Find them online at strikezonetournamentbaits.com. They are made right here in central Ontario. You will want a rod with a softer tip, the bite is fairly subtle using this technique and the softer tip will allow for the fish to hang on to it a little longer allowing you to have time to set the hook. It also aids in the fighting the fish while using lighter lines. I use a 6'10" Kistler Micro Magnesium medium action, using 15 to 20lb braid and tip it with about 10ft of 10lb fluorocarbon as a leader. I use a small #2 Gamakatsu drop shot hook, these are very small and have a thin wire. Tie the hook using a Palomar knot directly on the line and leave at least 2 ft of a line tag on the end. This is where you simply cinch on a drop shot weight to your desired length. Simply nose hook the Slammer on the hook and that's it. You can drop shot vertical right under the boat or cast it out and drag it slowly to cover more water. Either method, all you want to do is slowly shake the lure without to much action.
The key is to always have your weight in contact with the bottom, keeping your line tight at all times and the lure will just suspend off the bottom. The bites are very subtle; you might just feel weight on your line. Always watch your line, a lot of times you feel the slightest tap, and then feel weight or see your line moving. When you feel that weight, lift your rod up and start reeling it in. This technique does not require a big hook set. The hook will do all the work just start reeling and hang on.
Give these 2 techniques a try on your local lake, once you get the hang of them you can use these all the time for smallmouth on any body of water and have success.