I can remember as a young boy wading Mulberry Creek in Lynchburg Tennessee in search of smallmouth Bass. There is no better fighter on the end of your line than the acrobatic smallmouth Bass. I have often referred to the smallmouth Bass as the poor mans trout and the beauty of the bronzeback is unmatched to a Tennessee farm boy. There are many ways to catch smallmouth Bass and listed here are just three of my favorite.
LIVE BAIT: Live bait is one of my favorite ways to catch smallmouth Bass. It may not be in tune with the purist who only use artificial bait. I would say many anglers shun live bait largely due to the inconvenience as well as the work involved in procuring live bait especially the live bait I am about to list. My favorite live bait in streams, creeks and rivers has got to be the hellgramite with the Crawdad right behind it. These baits are plentiful in running creeks and can be seined and kept alive rather easily.
To gather these baits for fishing you will need a creek seine. Three to four feet wide is fine with a stick at each end to hold the seine in the current. The seine should have heavy lead weights along the bottom and floats along the top. Standing up current from the seine spread the seine between the two sticks and allow the seine to flow downstream forming a belly where the floats are above the weights and the net creates a pocket for the bait to go.
Now start to kick gravel loose in front of the seine. You won’t be able to see anything from the mud you kick up but the bait will wash into the seine by the current. After you have kicked up the gravel lift the seine up making sure to lift the weights up first and keeping the bait from getting away. There will be some gravel but that’s OK just pick through it and get the hellgramites and Crawdads out and put them in a bucket. Now you are ready to start fishing.
Wading creeks are great fun and you can use waders or not depending on the time of year. All you need is a simple spinning outfit. I like to use a long rod for fishing for smallmouth Bass in creeks. It allows you to reach underneath overhanging tree limbs as well as deep dark root wads where smallmouth Bass love to hide. My favorite way to wade the creek is with a nine foot fly rod with no reel. I tie about four foot of braid to the end with a hook, no weight and start dipping, as we called it.
This method is not only the most fun but possibly the most effective way to get to those hard to reach areas along the creek bank that hold the mighty smallmouth Bass. Never pass up a riffle. When you are wading up-stream, always wade up-stream so you don’t muddy up your next fishing hole, sneak past the riffles and lay your bait in the strong current above the plunge hole below it. It might not look like there are any fish there but you might be surprised. Let your bait drift naturally into the deeper water and hold on.
Of all the fishing I have done to this point this method of catching smallmouth Bass has got to be my favorite. Not many people take advantage now with all the publicity on big boats and fancy fishing gear but this technique is not only fun but very effective. One thing to be aware of on these small bodies of water is that with little fishing pressure and the abundance of food these creeks, streams and rivers can produce possibly the biggest Smallmouth of your life.
FLOAT-N-FLY: Many bass anglers target largemouth Bass. There are more of them and they tend to be a little easier to catch as they stick to the more visible cover in shallower water. It is when one of these anglers hooks into a smallmouth that they vow to try and catch more of them someday. Very few bass anglers can truly be labeled strictly a smallmouth Bass Angler. However, there are some who have taken the practice of catching these ghosts of the deep to a whole new level.
A technique created to catch big smallmouth Bass is the float-n-fly technique. The fly used in this technique is actually a lead-head jig tied like a fly. The longtime traditional materials for the smallmouth fly or hair jig is deer hair or squirrel hair. Today there are many synthetic materials that make great flies for the float-n-fly rig. Colors range from natural to bright depending on the clarity of water and whether it is sunny or overcast. Natural colors in clear water and bright colors in dingy or muddy water.
The fly is attached to the line beneath a float. The slip-bobber has become more popular in recent years and makes it easier to cast. The float-n-fly rig is usually used when the water is cold and the smallmouth bass are a little sluggish and deep. The float should be between 9 to 12 feet above the fly and worked super slow. The hair on the fly will pulsate with very little current and pauses of 30 seconds or more are not uncommon. A quick twitch with the rod tip after the pause is all that is needed before another long pause. The strike often come just after the twitch but the pause is important to getting the smallmouth to commit to your presentation.
FLOATING RAPALA: The original floating rapala has been bringing smallmouths to the boat for many years. Probably the most over-looked presentation, and arguably the most fun, has to be twitching an original floating Rapala over deep clear water. The smallmouth just cannot hardly resist this presentation and when they refuse to hit anything else you can usually coax some up this way. I have caught smallmouth bass with the floating Rapala on top when the water temperature is in the 40′s.
The trick is to convince the smallmouth below that there is a dying shad struggling to swim. Shad cannot tolerate cold water and weaker shad will begin to die when the water temps reach the low 40′s. smallmouth bass are cold-blooded and will not expend the energy to chase baitfish but when it just sits there twitching for a long period of time it will trigger the smallmouth to move up and take the easy meal. Sometimes a smallmouth will come from 40 or more feet below to smack your bait.
The way to fool these smallmouth is to cast your floating Rapala close to shore along deep bluff banks. Let the Rapala sit initially for several seconds before the first twitch. When you twitch the Rapala just a couple quick snaps with a slightly slack line will be enough to entice a bite. Let the Rapala sit several more seconds and repeat. This technique allows the Rapala to stay over the fish longer and convince them that the dying shad isn’t going anywhere fast and trigger a strike. Oftentimes it is an explosive strike and it will surprise you. Be prepared and do not set the hook too quick and pull the Rapala out of the smallmouth’s mouth. Give the fish a second to get the bait into his mouth and your hook-up success will go up.
Check out my website for more fishing tips: http://www.ramblingangler.com
About Ken McBroom
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life his wanderlust took him all over our great country to include the oceans, rivers and mountains of Alaska. Married now with two beautiful children Ken calls Indiana home and finds himself learning yet another region and enjoying every minute. Ken is an avid hunter and angler and hopes, as an outdoor communicator, he can share his adventures and help others pursue their outdoor dreams. Ken’s adventures, writings and photos can be seen at his website Rambling Angler Outdoors.
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