Guide John Blais

John Blais
Location: Belgrade/Cobbosseecontee Lake, Maine
Credentials: Blais has been chasing smallmouth throughout Maine for over 20 years, both is still-water and the river systems. Boating 50 fish a day is common, and he’s led clients to his share of six-pound bronzebacks.
Number of years guiding: 7
Contact: (207) 872-9688;

Favorite Spinnerbait: War Eagle Double Willow
Color: Mouse/Nickel Blades
Weight: ½ oz.
Details: “I like War Eagles because you can really burn them. It almost seems like the faster you reel, the better they look. The water up here in Maine is really clear, so the fish tend to be spooky. I’ll have clients cast way past the area we’re targeting and get the blades moving right away. That way, the lure looks natural when it reaches the fish and the splash doesn’t scare them.”


Storm Wiggle Wort

Favorite Crankbait: Storm Original Wiggle Wart
Color: Phantom Brown Crayfish
Size: 2 in.
Weight: 3/8 oz.
Details: “Ninety-five percent of the smallmouths’ diet in my waters is crayfish. The Wiggle Wart looks a lot like a wounded crayfish if you work it correctly. If you’re retrieving a crankbait and feel it bump a rock or stump, stop reeling immediately. If it doesn’t get hit, start again with a slower cadence. This action mimics a wounded crayfish trying to escape. If you’re not deflecting the lure off structure, you won’t catch anything.”

Favorite Soft Plastic: Yamamoto Senko
Color: Black/Red Flake
Size: 5 in.
Details: “Dark-colored lures create great contrast in clear water. Senkos work particularly well in the post-spawn when you want big, suspending females. They’re also easy for novices to fish. I always fish a Senko whacky-style, but you want them to fall horizontally so they look natural. Too many anglers run the hook through the collar of the bait, but that’s not the center of the bait. Bend a Senko until the ends meet so you find the center and put the hook there.”

Favorite Jig: Bass Stalker Finesse Jig
Color: Black/Blue
Weight: ½ oz.
Details: “The concave, angled head on these jigs makes them sit upright on the bottom. If you match them with a pork trailer, they look just like a defensive crayfish. People don’t realize that jigs are very versatile. If I’m fishing one more traditionally, I just move the rod tip from ten o’clock to 12 o’clock to impart slight action. But sometimes I’ll just reel steadily and swim them. Both work as long as you maintain constant contact with the lure.

Guide Ed Keller

Ed Keller
Location: Susquehanna/Potomac River, Maryland
Credentials: A former Redman Tournament Circuit pro, Keller now focuses his angling efforts into putting customers on up to 40 smallmouth a day, many of them weighing four pounds or better.
Number of years guiding: 9
Contact: (301) 582-9404;

Favorite Spinnerbait: Strike King Premier Pro Model
Color: White/Gold Blades
Weight: 3/8 oz.
Details: “The water in our rivers can be off-color depending on time of year and run-off. Gold shows up much better in those conditions, and double willow blades produce more vibration. I’ve found that a slower retrieve produces well in my area. You do have to keep the blades turning, but bumping the bottom on the occasion is not a bad thing. I’ll use this retrieve when we’re fishing around grass points in four to five feet of water.”

Favorite Crankbait: Rebel Wee-Crawfish
Color: Green Crawfish
Size: 2 in.
Weight: 1/5 oz.
Details: “Crayfish are the main forage of our smallmouth. This lure has a wide wobble that triggers more strikes than any other imitation I’ve found. Because of the odd profile of this crankbait, you need to get the retrieve just right. I try to reel just fast enough to get the rod tip tapping slightly. Pull them too fast and all they do is roll.”


Yamamoto Senko

Favorite Soft Plastic: Yamamoto Senko
Color: Watermelon
Size: 4 in.
Details: “Senkos are great during the post-spawn when bass are guarding the fry. The watermelon color has great visibility, and fish hit it defensively as it falls. I rig a Senko Texas-style with no weight. I prefer a 2/0 or 3/0 wide-gap hook. You want them to fall in a nice level position. They look the most natural that way. A bait falling nose-down just doesn’t look right.”

Favorite Jig: Rite Bite Tube
Color: Green Pumpkin/Purple Flake
Size: 3 ½ in.
Weight: 1/8 oz jighead.
Details: “These tubes are heavily salt-impregnated, which I think causes fish to hang on longer when they strike. The plastic material is also thicker in this bait then many other, which makes them more durable. I use a 1/8-ounce jighead with a tube 80% of the time. If you’re targeting suspending smallmouth, they won’t usually dive to chase a jig that comes whizzing past them. One-quarter-ounce jigs fall too fast, but 1/8-ounce is just right in most cases.”


Captain John Davis

John Davis
Location: Dale Hollow Lake, Tennessee
Credentials: Davis began running smallmouth trips only six years ago because he “didn’t want to share secrets.” But now that he’s offering his knowledge to clients, they shouldn’t be surprised to hook bass topping seven pounds.
Number of years guiding: 6
Contact: (859) 619-8002;


Stanley Wedge Tandem

Favorite Spinnerbait: Stanley Wedge Tandem
Color: Chartreuse/White
Weight: ½ oz.
Details: “The Wedge appeals to me because it doesn’t look bulky in the water. The head is very streamlined, which gives it a nice presentation. I like to run a spinner bait shallow enough that I can see the blades flashing, but not high enough that there is a wake on the surface. I also like to position the boat so I’m throwing parallel to the bank. When the bass are holding shallow, it’s a deadly combination.”

Favorite Crankbait: Luhr Jensen Hot Lips
Color: Hot Texas Red Crystal
Size: 2 ¾ in.
Weight: ¼ oz.
Details: “Hot Lips run true right out of the box. I’ve never had to tune them to get a fish-catching action. That red-and-black color is also a terrific crayfish imitator. With any crankbait, you need to be hitting things underwater, like logs, rocks, or just the bottom, for success with bigger fish. A lure bouncing off debris better imitates a fleeing crayfish. The fish key in on the sound. I’ve had five clean runs and caught nothing, then on the sixth, I hit a rock and a fish grabs it.”

Favorite Soft Plastic: Kalin’s Triple Threat Grub
Color: Brown/Chartreuse
Size: 5 in.
Details: “Grubs are great in mid- to late spring when bass are in the cover, because you can bring them over the grass without getting hung. Triple Threats have great tail action, and they’re something any client can fish easily. People get so wrapped up in all these new scented lures. They’re expensive, and in my experience grubs are more about getting a reaction strike than attracting the fish with smell. A grub brought in with a steady retrieve catches plenty of fish. I never worry about scent.”

Favorite Jig: Punisher Shaky Jig
Color: Brown
Weight: 1/8 oz.
Details: “I’ve caught hundreds of fish on this jig. It has a finer skirt material that I think gives it a little more subtle action. It even works great in really cold water. The best thing about a skirted jig is the versatility. Sure you can jig them up and down, hop them along, but one thing that I like to do is slow-crawl them. I’ll let it settle on the bottom, and provided it doesn’t get hit on the fall, just drag it so it looks like a slow-moving crayfish.”


Guide John Tipton

John Tipton
Location: New/Shenandoah River, West Virginia
Credentials: A veteran smallmouth hunter on the rivers of West Virginia, Tipton runs more than 75 trips a year, getting customers hooked into fish winter, spring, summer and fall.
Number of years guiding: 18
Contact: (540) 731-3165;

Favorite Jig: Yamamoto Hula Grub
Color: Green Pumpkin
Size: 2 in
Weight: 1/4 oz stand-up jighead.
Details: “Ninety-eight percent of the forage in the New River is crayfish, and Green Pumpkin best matches their molted color. These jigs work well year-round, but when the water is cold, I use a stand-up jighead. The smallmouth won’t chase a jig, but with a head that causes them to sit vertically on the bottom, you can practically dead-stick the bait and let the current impart the action. Just make sure to keep constant contact with the bottom.”

Favorite Spinnerbait: Strike King SpinnerBait
Color: White/Silver Blades
Weight: 1/4 oz
Details: “You can’t beat a white spinnerbait in my opinion. White and silver just match so many different kinds of forage. However, I do think people tend to just cast and reel. They don’t think about speed and approach enough. I’ve caught smallmouth as the lure was falling. I’ve also caught just as much reeling fast just under the surface as I have slow and deep.”

Favorite Crankbait: Lucky Craft RC 1.5**
Color:** Purple Perch
Size: 2 in.
Weight: 1/2 oz
Details: “Lucky Craft lures might be on the expensive side, but they can take a beating. That’s important because the trick to getting strikes is often boucing a crankbait off structure. The Purple Perch pattern has always done well for me in various water conditions.”


Case’s Wacky Jack

Favorite Soft Plastic: Case’s Wacky Jack**
Color:** Green Pumpkin
Size: 5 1/2 in.
Details: “The Wacky Jack is very similar to a Senko, but I’ve found that the design outfishes them signifcantly. Because of those pointed ends, the lures just has a natural action on the fall that smallmouth can’t seem to resist. The green pumpkin does a great job matching crayfish, and this color works all year long.”