Warm-water smallmouths have a reputation of being exclusively deep water fish, especially in natural lakes, and especially starting around this time of the year when spring cool gives way to summer heat. But it’s exactly that wide spread belief that plays to the seasoned smallmouth angler’s advantage. The smart guys know the value of continuing to look shallow when others hunt deep. Quite honestly, a good percentage of shallow-water smallmouth get left alone in summer, either because people don’t know what to look for in the shallows, or they feel it’s just too much work to catch what they assume will only be a few fish in those areas. If you’ve ever fished vast natural bodies of water like the Great Lakes, there is relentless talk about dragging tubes and dropshots for deep smallies. Tell you the truth, dragging bores me to tears. Sure, it can be rewarding, effective, and fun if the action is fast and furious, but go drag a tube for five hours straight without a bite and then come talk to me. And you’ll find me shallow. Here’s the strategy.
If you’re going to fish shallow, you have to keep one thing in mind: There are more bass in the skinny water than you think, even if you don’t see them. That said, step one is believing they’re there. Step two is putting in the work to find key areas in the shallows. Step three is figuring out how to catch them. Is it little tougher than dragging a tube in 30 feet? Yes, but the reality is that one key shallow spot can fill the livewell with giants as fast as dropping a tube on some loaded-up deep structure.
The two questions I always get from prospective shallow-water summer smallmouth anglers are: How shallow do they actually get? And can these fish rival the quality and quantity that live in the depths? The short answers are; 1-5 feet deep is the norm, yes to the quality, and no to the quantity. I say don’t sweat the quantity part, because the quality fish that are shallow are more fun to catch than deep fish if and when you find them. In terms of finding them, I play the power finesse card. Give me a big walking topwater or large spinnerbait that will cast a mile and let me cover maximum water. Once I hook up and get a bead on the location of a fish or two, I’ll switch back to that trusty tube or dropshot and mop up as many shallow pigs as I can.