Smallmouth Bass Tips & Tactics

Smallmouth Bass are extremely sensitive to nitrogen levels in the water. Over the winter with an air-tight sheet of ice over the lake; nitrogen cannot escape through the ice thus nitrogen levels become extremely high in the shallow water. As plants die and other bio-matter on the bottom on the lake gets broken down by bacteria, nitrogen is releases and floats to the top water table in a dissolved state. As a result Smallmouth Bass go as deep as they can in the winter to avoid the dangerous water. This is one of the reasons why many people wonder where the Smallmouth Bass are in the spring. However, about month after ice is out nitrogen levers drop way down and large mating pairs of Smallmouth Bass will head to sandy areas with a lot of dead-fall. They lay their eggs in the sand close to rotting logs. The rotting logs help moderate the alkalinity of the water thus helping the survival rate of the eggs. During the spawn the big bass are not feeding. However they will protect their spawning bed and will attack small lures that are bright in color such as red, orange, fire-tiger, perch and chartreuse. Smaller bass that have not reach spawning age yet tend to stay deep until the end of June and into early July, depending on how far north you are.

Smallmouth Bass is open all year on Murray Lake but the really hot Smallmouth Bass fishing does not start until July, which is the same with most northern lakes. At this time most of the Smallmouth Bass have come out of the deep and are hanging around rocky structure such as rocky points, small islands and shoals. They are usually very hungry and will attack anything.

Smallmouth Bass are moody and will change feeding habits based on weather, light penetration, temperature of the air, wind direction, temperature of the surface water, changes in atmospheric pressure and other factors. Let's say 20 yards in front of you there is a shoal. The shoal is about 50 square yard. The water is two feed deep on top and the water slides down to 20 feet deep all around the shoal. There is a nice breeze hitting one side of the shoal producing waves around 6 inches high but the shoal breaks them up and the are just inch-high rippled on the other side.

Below is a diagram showing the possible zones that the bass will be.

Wind Consideration: If the Smallmouth Bass are feeding aggressively they will be on the windy side of the shoal. If this is the case, one of techniques described for Zones A, B & D should be effective.

Zone A: When you reach casting distance of the shoal the first thing you should do is cast small shallow running lures such as floating linear and floating jointed Rapalas and Thundersticks or whatever shallow lures you have. Keep trying different colors from bright colors like red, fire-tiger and chartreuse. If this does not work try casting more natural colors such as silver-&-black, gold-&-silver, blue-&-silver. If you are catching good size bass than keep going. If not, try Zone B.

Zone B: Cast lures and colors just like Zone A but use deeper running lures such as Fatraps, Cotton Cordells, buzzbaits and even small spinnerbaits. If that's where you are hitting good size bass then keep doing it. If you are not hitting them then try Zone D.

Zone D: If the bass are in Zone D this means they are aggressively feeding but choose to stay deep. This may be caused by too much wave action, dropping pressure, too much light penetration or maybe they followed a school of minnows down deeper. In this case you want to try dropping tub jigs that have a little bit of worm stuffed in them or regular jigs tipped with a leech, minnow or a salted rubber. Scented rubbers do not work in the north. It's best to use salted baits or unscented rubbers. Try a whole range of colors. If you start hitting bass then keep doing it. If you don't have any luck then Zone's C and E must be where they are.

Zone C & E: If the Smallmouth Bass are on the quiet side of the shoal that means they are not feeding aggressively. This is when you go to live bait. For Zone C, put a minnow, leech or big juicy worm on a size-5 bass hook with no weight and cast into the zone and slowly drag the bait over the rocks. If a bass grabs the bait release your bail and let him take some line for about 5 seconds before you set the hook. You don't want to set the hook right away and you also do not want the bass to swallow the hook. The 5-second rule seems to be the safest for the fish.

If you are not getting any action in Zone C then cast out over the deeper water of Zone E and just let the bait slowly sink. Let it sink right to the bottom and site there. If the Smallmouth Bass are there they see it and know it's there. If you do not get a bite pull the bait towards you about a foot an let it sit back down on the bottom.

The methods above work for any structure. On days when it's dead calm and there is no wind at all, you might have to try all six styles on all sides of the shoals. Usually when it's dead calm the Smallmouth Bass are right up in the shallow water and can be taken with shallow running lures. You can also try casting Crawler Harnesses. Go-Getters, small Mepps Bucktails or the Mepps spinner with the rubber minnow. You can also try surface lures such as Jitterbugs, Bass Poppers and Heddon Spooks. Be aware that surface lures will attract Northern Pike. They can steal your lure if you don't have a steel leader on. Also, if a big Northern Pike moves into the area the bass will stop feeding. If you are not catching bass put on a Daredevle and try picking off some northerns.

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