When the water temperatures start to reach about 45 degrees, here in the northeast that happens around mid to late March, we start looking for big smallmouth bass. Water temperature is critical this time of year, as just an increase of a few degrees can really turn smallmouth on.
In the spring, in Maryland, and especially in New York, our two best baits for smallmouth are the hair jig, usually in black or brown, and a Yamamoto grub, in smoke or chartreuse. We fish these baits in about six to twelve feet of water where there are clay or gravel flats. When smallmouth start moving up out of deeper water they are spooky, so stealth is very important. Don’t drop anything on the bottom of the boat, and keep the trolling motor on as low as possible.
The best method is to cast shallow and retrieve the lure slowly back towards the deeper water. Slowly is the key word here. In cold water, a slow, steady retrieve is deadly for big smallmouth.
When the water starts to get above 50 degrees, the smallmouth will start to move around the flats more. Some of the best spots for smallmouth don’t really look very good to the average angler that is used to fishing for largemouth. The better areas are just some pea gravel or some clay with maybe a stump or two, but fish these areas slowly now, and you will connect with a big smallmouth. Swimming a Yamamoto grub in these type of areas is absolutely deadly at these water temperatures. Keep working these areas slowly and don’t move too quickly, and you will hook one of the better smallmouth in the area.
Many times here in the northeast, we get a lot of heavy rains, which really muddies up the water such as the Susquehanna River and flats. This can really ruin a lot of the small mouth fishing, but finding clearer water can produce good fish even under these adverse conditions, as we proved earlier this year out on the flats. By searching out some clear water in the same type of areas, we connected with several big fish while we were hearing nothing but complaints from other anglers. In lakes or reservoirs, as well as the rivers, if you move to the back of creek arms and crank the advancing mudline, you can still connect with good fish. Another thing that works well in these situations is slow rolling a spinnerbait, such as a Terminator T-1, in 3/8 ounce or smaller, along the banks that are windblown that contain some chunk rock. This has always worked well in various parts of the country for many years.
By: Steve vonBrandt, Originally Published: Fall 2004