Sight Fishing Smallmouth Tips

News & Tips: Sight Fishing Smallmouth Tips

SightFishingSmallmouthTips blogChasing shallow-water smallmouth is one of my favorite types of fishing. There's something about sneaking up on a big bass, fooling it with a well placed cast, and then watching the acrobatics show that gets my adrenaline flowing. Here are some tips to pull more bronzebacks from the skinny water during summer:

  • Invest in a pair of quality polarized sunglasses. I recommend a lens that increases contrast as its tint will make structure and fish stand out and be easier to see.
  • When using a trolling motor, opt for a slow continuous setting instead of using high thrust intervals to adjust boat position. The latter tends to spook smallmouth. Wind drifting is another option, but always remain in full control of the boat's speed and direction.
  • Keep a clean and clutter-free boat. This eliminates the risk of something banging around and spooking fish. It also gives you ample space to move around when playing a fish.
  • Fan cast shorelines and shallow flats using search lures, like spinnerbaits and jerkbaits, to locate smallmouth and hook active fish. Topwater baits are also stellar options, particularly at dawn and dusk.
  • Finesse lures are also a must. My top picks include tubes and hair jigs between 1/8- to 1/16-ounces, 3- to 4-inch stick baits on a drop-shot, or small craws and creature baits plastics on a split-shot rig.
  • Douse a bait with fish attractant to amp-up the offering's appeal to an inquisitive bass.
  • Always have a throw-back rod rigged and ready to pitch out to a cruising fish or one that followed in a fast-moving lure but didn't bite.
  • Cast lures beyond the target and strive for a quiet lure entry to avoid spooking a fish.
  • Play close attention to where you see or hook bass throughout the day as this is key to putting a shallow-water pattern together. Depending on time of year and the day's conditions, smallmouth might prefer rock, a sand-weed mix, a rock-sand transition or isolated wood.
  • Be on the lookout for points, bars and other protrusions that jut out into deeper water. Bass use these structures as migration routes to move to shallow areas. Focusing efforts around these aquatic highways is a sound strategy.
  • Be prepared for bass to go airborne multiple times when hooked from shallow water. Set your drag accordingly, keep tension on the fish and avoid high-sticking the rod as this encourages jumps.
  • Smallmouth will often follow a boat for shade as well as to pounce on baitfish and invertebrates stirred up by the trolling motor. Make it a habit to frequently cast behind the boat.
  • Be respectful around docks, swim platforms and other property when fishing shoreline areas.