Summertime Smallmouth

As the air and water temps continue to climb smallmouth finish spawning and make their transition back to their summer patterns.  Growing up in Pennsylvania, this meant chasing them on Lake Erie back in deeper water and focusing on offshore structure.  Two key elements to successful summer smallmouth fishing are finding the structure fish need and then finding that structure with forage present.

It was a bit more difficult in the early days given the limitations of electronics to find those rock piles, ship wrecks, and other off shore structure. that the forage (primarily emerald shiners and goby in Lake Erie) were keyed on, but today, with modern tech and better mapping I can eliminate areas and focus my search in higher percentage areas.  Once the right structure is located there are two techniques which have always shined in both locations during the warm summer months:  drop shot and swimbaits.  I like to locate rock piles offshore in 10-20 feet of water that is holding forage and once I find these conditions I will mark a waypoint and start fishing.

For drop shot fishing I prefer 8 lb braid to an 8 lb fluorocarbon leader tied with a finesse hook and a nose hooked bait matching the forage, which works out be green pumpkin most of the time. Pair this with a good spinning reel and a Cashion John Crews Icon (iDS74MHFsjc) and you are set up for summertime fun.  Use the lightest weight possible given the depth to maintain bottom contact and allow for natural, subtle movement.  If it’s too heavy, you will hang up on the bottom and cause the bait to move unnaturally. If I am unable to get bit with the drop shot I will grab my Cashion Elite Swimbait rod (FS92678) and throw a soft plastic swimbait, matching the color and size (typically 3-4”) of the forage along with the correct weight for the conditions I am fishing.  One thing I like most about the soft plastic swimbaits is I can fish the entirety of the water column with it and get it in front of the fish whether they are chasing bait mid water or holding tight to the structure.  What I start with in these instances is interchangeable and once I get bit on one technique, I will typically stick with that to start on the next piece of structure.  Find your pattern!

Summertime smallmouth can be rewarding and frustrating!  In my experience, fish feeding in short windows can provide some fast and furious action!  One of my best summer days came off a single rock which was no bigger than the hood of a truck and produced 33 fish from 2-5 pounds.  Do not be afraid to stay on the structure and keep working it.  Once you figure out what the fish want and how they want it you can have a day you’ll never forget!

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