Chasing Early-Summer Smallies
Tough times call for light lines and big baits.
The days and weeks immediately following the spawn are usually not the most productive times to be wading your favorite stream, rod in hand. Smallmouth bass are exhausted from the rigors of courtship and are acting a bit fickle. You will most likely be facing a fight on two fronts: low, clear water and lockjawed bass.
You can overcome these and other obstacles by following three rules:
(1) Go light. A 6-foot ultralight spinning rig spooled with 6-pound-test monofilament is the ideal tool for catching skittish smallmouths in clear water-conditions you’re likely to encounter right now.
(2) Think bigger. Bass may be in a surly, sour mood, but remember: Spawning is hard, time-consuming work. The fish are hungry-now is no time for minuscule baits.
(3) Fish fast water. Seek out spots where the water is pumping. Try targeting tailout pools, riffles, and chutes, and don’t ignore seams, eddies, and particularly points where feeders enter a main creek.
One angler who knows how to tackle postspawn smallmouths is Bill Sampson, stream biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. When fishing the fast water, Sampson keeps his line fairly tight and aligns the bait with the heart of the moving water, giving it a sideways twitch as it streaks through the strike zone. “I seem to catch more fish in swift water,” he says, “especially after the spawn.”
A soft-bait man, Sampson recommends a 5-inch Zoom Super Fluke in watermelon or green pumpkinseed with a wide-gap No. 2 or 3 hook. “Postspawn, I definitely use a bigger bait,” he says. “You might not catch as many fish as you would with a smaller bait, but I think you catch bigger fish.”