Tips For Catching Trophy Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass
and time again over the years, I have listened to many anglers and
clients express their frustration at trying to catch smallmouth bass.
Most anglers don’t realize that these fish have their own set of
behaviors that sets them apart from largemouth bass. The major
differences between a smallmouth and a largemouth bass are as follows:
you fish for smallmouth here in the northeast, especially in the
Susquehanna river in Maryland, you will find that smallmouth bass do
not stick that tight to cover. This is even more apparent in some of
our slack water reservoirs. Smallmouth relate much more to a sudden or
rapid depth change than they do cover. When we fish for largemouths, we
are all taught to fish brushpiles and thick weedbeds, but small mouth
bass are more likely to be caught on a rock ledge that drops off
quickly from about six to twelve feet.
When fishing in
the reservoirs here such as Conowingo, or in the rivers like the
Susquehanna, smallmouths are sometimes caught shallow, but they are
seldom more than 10-20 yards away from deep water. The Rapala DT series
has been taking good smallmouth in these areas.
we go, we see the majority of bass anglers beating the shoreline, and
as this may work for largemouth bass most of the time, if you are after
big smallmouth bass, turn around and cast to the open water rather than
beat the shore.
Unlike largemouth, smallmouth often
group together by size. I found that if we were catching smaller fish,
in the eleven to fourteen inch range, we rarely caught a big one in the
same area. On the other hand, when we caught a smallmouth that was
above four or five pounds, many times there were several that size and
even larger swimming right along with them. Big largemouth bass are
loners, usually found by themselves on the best piece of structure,
while larger smallmouth bass will often school together. There are
several things that tell you that smallmouth bass are much better
suited for strong current than largemouth. For one, their pointed noses
and the sharp angle of their fins are indicators that they are more
suited to current. They often get behind a rock or stump and rush out
to feed. Largemouth can adapt somewhat to current, but are much more at
home in slack water.
Locating and then catching big
smallmouth is a real challenge. That is why it is so much fun.
Hopefully by reading some of these methods you have gained a better
understanding of where these trophy fish go and what they are looking
for, and of course, this will hopefully get you the fish of a lifetime.
Remember, get out early and late in the year and brave the elements,
hit these prime areas with the baits we described, and remember most of
all, you are after a completely different fish! "These are NOT
There are thousands of small ponds, lakes, and
rivers that hold "Huge Bass" from Maine to Florida. Over the last 10
years of maintaining records, and having caught and released over 600
bass from 5 to 10 pounds, from small waters on the East Coast, and one
over 10 pounds from Delaware, here are the tactics I have found that
produce consistent trophies each year.
Even in small
bodies of water (under 1000 acres), there will be only a small portion
of the water that will hold the biggest bass. The most important
features to look for are the areas where more than two or three
different types of vegetation come together in the same area. Now, not
all of these areas will hold big fish. The largest fish in the lake
will always be in the best cover and locations. This will be where the
various grasses combine near a creek channel on or near the beds and
flats, adjacent to deep water cover. Generally, this deep water access
will contain other cover also, which is not visible without the use and
understanding of good electronics, and a good understanding of what you
are observing. Sometimes the features on the bottom will be subtle, but
will be the "Hot Spot" of the area. Small depressions, with rocks or
boulders along the drop-off, if they have a current break, will be
prime locations for "Trophy Bass". When there is no real cover such as
rocks or trees, sometimes depth alone can provide the proper cover from
light penetration, and produce good results.
bodies of water such as in Delaware and Maryland, the bass are
generally in or very near the same locations all year. This does not
guarantee a trophy by any means whatsoever. It is rare to catch the
biggest fish in the lake by conventional means. Many large bass from
five to eight pounds are caught on artificials, such as spinnerbaits,
jigs, frogs, swimbaits, and buzzbaits each year, but as a rule, the
true trophies, 9 pounds and above, are caught on specialized techniques
and live bait. Recently, several big bass have been hitting big
"Saltwater" Rat-L-Traps in the 3/4 ounce and up size in various colors,
worked with a fast, pumping action of the rod, and with swimbait
tactics employed by the west coast anglers. The Sebile "Magic Swimmer"
and the Tru-Tungsten 4 inch swimbait have really produced some big bass
in the northeast. I never believed that these baits would work here
until I met Bill Seimantel at the Big Bass World Championship at Table
Rock lake in Missouri in 1999, and he convinced me to try them here in
the northeast. Since that time swimbaits of all types have produced
numerous trophy class fish.
When fishing for true
"Trophy Bass", the best bait to use is the primary forage in the body
of water where you are fishing. This should be researched in advance by
contacting the Fish and Game Department of the state you are planning
to fish in, and checking with local tackle shops. You also need to know
what is legal to use in each state you're fishing.
lakes, ponds, and rivers in the Delaware and Maryland area, have golden
shiners in them, and they will really produce big bass. When these are
not available, extra-large wild shiners are the next best choice. If
you insist on using only artificials, then a large frog, big buzzbait,
a 12" worm, a 3/4 to 1 1/2 ounce Rat-L-Trap, or a "Castaic", "Sebile",
or "Matt Lures" Swim Bait are the best choices.
will need at least two or three dozen shiners each time you go, and
they must be in a temperature controlled, chemically treated bait
keeper system to ensure they are lively. This is very important. When
using live millroach or shiners over a deep structure, I like to hook
them thru the back, and for drifting, through the lips. When working
cattails, marsh reeds, and heavy pads, I hook them through the tail and
let them swim in towards the heavy cover where the bass are. Use 3/0 to
5/0 sharp, Daiichi or X-Point hooks. I like to use balloons instead of
bobbers, they work best if you blow them up to about the size of a
small orange. You can tie them directly on the line, and use split shot
if you prefer.
The best equipment is a heavy action,
7-7 1/2 foot, E-glass or S-glass rod, of high quality, such as a
G.Loomis or St.Croix. Recently, many rod manufacturers are making rods
of composite and graphite materials that are lighter, yet stronger, and
produce the same characteristics of the older E or S Glass rods. G.
Loomis makes a good one, as well as Kistler. I always use line of at
least seventeen pound test, and most of the time twenty to thirty pound
monofilament. In certain deep water, or heavy cover situations, I use
forty to fifty pound test "Stren Super Braid", or "Power-Pro line".
suggest using a good baitcast rod, but a spinning rod in heavy action
will also work. The reels should be a strong metal reel, with at least
3 ball bearings, and strong gears of brass or better, in a 5:1:1 or
5:3:1 gear ratio, or similar range. It is best for all around power and
speed on these larger fish. Knots are very important. The best knot to
use is the Palomar, it has 100% knot strength. You should also learn
some other specialty knots for braid and other superlines as well.
best time to go is whenever you can. However, if you have only a few
days, and can choose, the solunar tables, weather conditions, and
barometer, should all be considered. They play a major role in fish
activity. In the very early spring, anglers who are willing to brave
the elements will catch the biggest bass. These fish strike earlier in
the year than most people imagine.
There are some great
small waters for Trophy bass in Rhode Island, Vermont, Minnesota,
Florida, and of course, California, Arizona, and Texas. However in the
Northeast, you can't go wrong by spending your time in Delaware at
Noxontown Lake in Middletown, Lums Pond in Bear, Killens in Dover, and
Diamond in Milton. The Susquehanna River, Liberty Reservoir, and the
Potomac River in Maryland also hold huge fish where you can catch both
largemouth and smallmouth.. These waters, fished with the techniques
outlined in this article, will produce you the "Trophy of a Lifetime".
Northeast Trophy Bass