Spring Smallmouth Bass Fishing
Spring time is finally starting to warm up here in Colorado, and as I have written before, there are just so many outdoor activities to be doing this time of year. I have written about fishing for largemouth bass a few times earlier, tonight I want to talk about smallmouth bass as they are a fun fish to go after, they are strong fighters, and they are beautiful fish, also called “Bronzebacks.”
Smallmouth bass are about 15 – 20” long, with record fish weighing in around 10 pounds or a little higher. In Colorado the state record is a 6 pound 8 ounce smallmouth caught by an 11 year old boy a few years ago. Smallmouth bass inhabit clear, small to medium-sized streams, rivers, and reservoirs. They favor such underwater structures as rock outcrops, logs, treetops, and constructed riprap walls. Spawning usually occurs in April and May (that isn’t happening here this year), when water temperatures reach 59º to 63º. Smallmouths feed primarily on small fishes, craw fish, and insects, and have a life span of 6 to 14 years.
Spring fishing for smallmouths can be a challenge as the cold water makes them less active, as with most fish. When the water temperature hits 55 degrees the bass will become more active as they prepare for the spawn, which occurs when the water reaches 60 degrees. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until the water hits 55 degrees, you can catch them in colder water if you know some tactics.
The first thing to do is locate water that gets a lot of sun and will warm up faster. One thing that a lot of people don’t know is that the sunlight actually warms up smallmouth bass because the dark colorations in their body absorbs sunlight and warms the fish. In the early spring I don’t go out on the lake in the early morning as the fish are just too lethargic for my taste until the sun starts to warm up the water and the fish. If the water temperature is below 44 degrees, I fish a small tube jig or sparse-haired jig with a flexible pork rind or plastic trailer with a lot of action in its tail. I use a slow retrieve and let the jig bounce along the bottom, pausing every few cranks of the reel handle.
As the water warms up to between 44 and 59 degrees, I will add a little more action and speed to my retrieve, but not too much speed. I will raise my rod tip more often and let the trailing tail on the jig flutter back down to the bottom. With both of these techniques I keep my rod tip pointed down at the lure, close to the water. With this temperature range you can also try deep-diving crank baits, jerk baits, and small spinner baits at a moderate retrieve.
When the temperature reaches 50 – 58 degrees, this is the best time for spring smallmouth fishing. The bass start responding more to active presentations. A larger jig combination as I mentioned above works well, and so do long-lipped crank baits, lipless, vibrating crank baits, and even in-line spinners. The lipless crank baits and in-line spinners work well over flats 2’ – 6’ deep.
When the action starts to heat up, it is good to use a lure that can cover a lot of water quickly to help you locate the bass. Crank baits, spinner baits, and jerk baits all work well to cover a lot of area quickly. If you locate a concentration of fish, stay in that area until you are not catching any more, and then move on to a new area.
As the water reaches 59 degrees the fish will begin to spawn, and as I mentioned about largemouth bass, I don’t go after smallmouths while they are spawning. To me it is very important to leave the fish alone during this period of time to allow them a successful reproductive season.
I live right next to one of the best smallmouth lakes in Colorado, and fishing for smallies is becoming more and more popular as people discover what a fun fish they are to pursue. The reservoir has a huge rock dam that is prime habitat for smallmouths, and the lake has plenty of craw fish, which are a main staple of their diet. One of my favorite lures is a deep-diving craw fish crank bait. I cast it towards the dam from my canoe, give a good hard jerk of my rod to get the lure down quickly, and then bounce it along the rocks on the bottom. To the fish, this looks like a craw fish backing away from danger with its claws up for defense.
In my neck of the woods, the smallmouth bass fishing will be getting going soon, especially with the temperatures now getting into the high 70’s and low 80’s this week. It seems like just a couple of weeks ago I was writing about the snow and cold, but now it was 82 degrees today! I think I can safely turn on my sprinkler system now, and hopefully I will get a turkey this week, so I can turn my attention fully to fishing over the next few months.