How to Catch Smallmouth Bass


Garden Island Lodge American Plan angler displays a nice smallmouth bass before releasing it on Lady Evelyn Lake.

Sometimes called brown bass, bronzeback and smallie, the smallmouth bass is a true favorite among Lady Evelyn anglers which pound for pound has a reputation for putting up a fight that rivals any other popular freshwater gamefish. They are either digging down deep with insane desperation or flying out of the water. Plus no other freshwater fish jumps like a fighting smallmouth bass.

Smallmouth bass are omnivorous in the food they consume. The smallmouth bass is an excellent predator feeding mostly on fish, crustaceans and aquatic and terrestrial insects. In waters where crayfish are abundant however crayfish frequently comprise over two-thirds of the smallmouth's diet. Now that we know what they feed on, here are some tips when fishing for old bronzeback in Lady Evelyn waters.

The most obvious spots to fish for feeding smallies are rock shoals and drop off points. However, they can also be found in deeper water where the concentration of feeder fish are more abundant. A quality depth finder is invaluable in finding the best structure.

Lady Evelyn Lake has excellent smallmouth bass fishing. Lady Evelyn is a rocky and nutrient rich Canadian Shield lake, which is the prime habitat for smallmouth bass. Rocky points, shoals, islands, waterfalls and mouths of feeder-streams all hold great populations of smallmouth bass. Their main food here is minnows, leaches and crayfish, which Lady Evelyn Lake has an endless supply.

In our lake, you will come across schools of smaller smallmouth in the 1/2 to 2-pound range. It's a lot of fun catching bass after bass when you find these schools. To be truly impressed with our bass fishery, you need to find prime areas where there are no schools of smallmouth bass. The reason being that large smallmouth bass over 3-pounds in our lake usually travel in mating pairs and they are very territorial and keep the smaller bass out. With this in mind, you can come across a school of bass or a point where they are congregating and catch 20 or 30 bass in a few hours. To get the big ones, you have to sacrifice numbers and with great patience, quietly keep working a prime shoal or rocky point. The big bass are big because they are smart and it can take 20 minutes or longer using different lures or live baits to get them to hit.

To cover large areas of water, diving crankbaits like Cotton Cordell's Rattlin Spot and the Rapala Shad Rap in silver or crawfish patterns are quite effective. When fishing shallow rock shoals, white and yellow spinnerbaits as well as shallow diving crankbaits have proven deadly. In deeper waters, a 1/4 oz. to 5/8 oz. jig head tipped with chartreuse, yellow or white Mister Twister grubs are also effective. Slowly bouncing these jigs off rocky bottoms will surely entice the most wary bronzeback. If fishing deep water in late summer or early fall, try bouncing a worm colored tube jig off the bottom. When smallmouth do go deep, they seem to like the 30 to 40 foot depth range.

Finicky Day Smallmouth Method

Some days you can throw every lure in the book at them and they will not hit. That's when you have to switch to live bait. Rock shoals and rocky points are the best spots for smallmouth. What you should do is get a bass hook and put a big worm on. Let the worm dangle off the hook. Don't keep hooking it until it's a ball on your hook. Use light line like 4 or 6 pound test so you can make long casts. With this method, you don't use any weight. If a free falling nightcrawler doesn't attract a strike you are fishing in the wrong spot.

Cast your big worm at the shore's edge or over top of a shoal and let the worm slowly sink. As soon as it sinks down a couple of feet, gently pull the worm towards you until it hits the surface then let it sink down again. It's almost like you are taking long slow jigs. But make sure you pull it very slowly and gently. You will find that most of the time, the smallmouth will hit the worm as it is sinking. You could put a weight about 3 feet up the line like a stretched Carolina Rig but when you are fishing in the rocks, a weight will get snagged. It's best not to use a weight even if you find it frustrating to cast. You can use the same method with a crayfish or a minnow. You can also use a small float about 2 feet up from the bait and cast over the rocks and just wait.

Yes .... Those Old Secret Methods Still Work!

Forty years ago an article was published in a magazine called Fishing Facts (no longer being published today) that described this method. Since then I have used it many different places on many different species of fish. What could be more simple than a large nightcrawler and a hook? But there are a few things that you should know to make this rig even more effective.

First off, this is meant for 4# to 6# test monofilament line so that the worm will sink at a more natural rate. That means that you will also need to use a 1000 series reel with a very dependable drag designed for lightweight fishing like a Shimano Stradic or Stella and a medium rod with a fast action tip and strong shaft. This rig works best using a tiny size 1 fine wire ultra point hook.

Canadian nightcrawler rigged with small hook on 6# test monofilament.

I'll bet I know what you are thinking about now! How am I going to catch a big smallmouth or walleye on that tiny hook without it bending or breaking my line? That's why you are using a spinning reel with a good quality drag. If you have the drag set too tight you will bend the hook or break the 6# test line. Start out with a very loose drag and as you are fighting the fish slowly tighten it until he can bend the rod fully but the fish can still pull the drag. I have caught many 20# hybrid striped bass with this same rig and only ever lost one extremely large striper that I was unable to chase down.

Tip: I have personally used this method to catch both walleye and smallmouth at Lady Evelyn on the hottest mid-summer dead calm afternoons when I could see the schools on my Humminbird but nothing else would work. Once I could get the first fish to take the worm the others will all get competitive and start hitting also and you will have an hour or two of fun.

Our Garden Island guests catch lots of smallmouth bass in the 1 to 5-pound range. On occasion, bass in the 6 to 7-pound range get caught but they are rare on any lake. The largest bass to be caught and released in recent years was an incredible 8.5 pounds. That is a true trophy in anyone's books! Smallmouth bass in the 1 to 1.5-pound range are the best for eating. When fresh, some people prefer smallmouth bass to walleye. With this in mind, we request that anglers release all smallmouth bass over 16 inches. With CPR (catch, photograph, and release) guests at Garden Island Lodge will enjoy their strong fight for years to come.


Garden Island Lodge American Plan angler holding up a nice smallmouth bass before releasing it.
Garden Island Lodge American Plan angler holding up a nice smallmouth bass before releasing it.
Garden Island Lodge American Plan angler holding up a nice smallmouth bass before releasing it.
Garden Island Lodge American Plan angler holding up a nice smallmouth bass before releasing it.
Garden Island Lodge American Plan angler holding up a nice smallmouth bass before releasing it.
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