Smallmouth Bass

The key to finding canoe-country Smallmouth is understanding their patterns, and that breaks down to these basic periods: the spawn, post-spawn, summer, and late summer/early fall.

The Spawn

Border country bass typically spawn about the first week of June. As soon as the water hits 59 degrees, the bass move into the shallows to spawn on gravel beds. The males prepare and guard the beds, so you're fishing mostly males during the spawn.

The most productive tactic for those nest-guarding males? The tiny Torpedo or similar surface plug with propeller-like spinner blade behind the body. Cast to where the water meets the shore and work it out 5 or 6 feet. You can also use floating Rapala or other plugs worked in the same fashion.

Keep in mind, calm conditions work best for surface fishing. If you get some chop, go to shallow-running minnow baits. If the bass are real finicky, go to the old reliable: a 1/16 oz or 1/8 oz lead-head jig with a 3 or 4 inch twister tail.

Post Spawn

After  spawning, bass do the only other thing they do in life - Eat. Now, you should be fishing in 8 to 12 feet of water. Go with topwater baits in early morning and late evening when the water is calm.

Otherwise, you're looking for that shoreline drop into dark water, preferably with some weeds coming up. Throw Shad Raps and crankbaits to get down where the fish are. A guide favorite for working this depth: twister tail grub on a plain jig head. Tip the jig with a leech or nightcrawler and you've got a combination that is hard to beat.

Females are starting to bite now. Work the edges of bays, but not the shallow back ends of them. You're looking for a gravel-boulder bottom, but not large boulders.

The bass aren't feeding on crayfish yet.


When the bass have moved out of the 8 to 12 foot water, it's time to move out to the submerged rock humps. This is roughly from June 15 to July 15.

You're looking for rock piles with humps topping out at 12 to 18 feet, sloping into deeper water. The bass rest on the sides of these rock piles, moving up on top to feed.

Anchor off or over the rock pile and throw jigs, rattle baits, and spinnerbaits. These bass are feeding on crayfish, you're trying to imitate something popping out of the rocks.

A very productive technique is to cast a jig with a twister tail body and walk it back across the top of rocks.

Late Summer

It's getting warmer, and the bass are now holding on the sides of rock piles and humps, 21 to 28 feet down. The late summer period usually extends from mid-July to mid-September.

Now, the Smallmouth are starting to go on a cisco (feeding) base. Lures of choice include jigs with twister tails tipped with live bait, as well as spinnerbaits. Although the fish are deep, don't use too much weight in your jigs.

The biggest mistake people make is using stuff that's too heavy. Everything you observe in the water drops slowly. Mimic nature.

You may get fewer hits this time of year but this is when you can expect to get larger fish.