Bedding smallmouth bass

About the author

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick is better known to the bass fishing world as the Smallmouth Guru. He lives in Celina, Tenn., and is the owner of Punisher Lures.

It’s been a crazy year. For the first time in my 49 years, I’ve seen Dogwood and Redbuds blooming at the same time. I don’t know what effect that has on fishing but I mention it because it tells us that Mother Nature is in charge, and she is shaking things up this year.

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is bedding smallies. They were tough to catch when I was a kid and they’re tough now. Smallmouth bass spawn deep. In my lake it’s 8 to 12 feet. But even in other lakes they’ll be 4 feet or better. That makes them tough to see. It’s not like looking for a largemouth on her bed in a foot of water.

When conditions are like that you can’t fiddle around with a plastic bait in the bed for an hour. The best you can do is look for a flat or pea gravel bank on the north shore and drag something around. It’s not real efficient, and I personally don’t recommend it. Nevertheless, if you want to try that I suggest you start with a Punisher Hail Mary.

Lots of folks are having success rigging a Zoom Brush Hog on the back of the Hail Mary and dragging across the bottom. After that, they just cast and drag… over and over. It’s about covering every inch of water from several different directions. That’s about all you can do if you can’t see the bed.

I’m not going to criticize you if that’s what you want to do. Hey man, whatever floats your boat. That’s what makes this country so great. But, for my money, I’d rather target stragglers in the same areas. Smallmouth don’t always spawn at the same time. There are always some that are moving to the beds and others that are coming off the beds. Mother Nature planned it that way.

The best way to catch them is with a simple plastic swimbait. I grab an ordinary swimbait head, attach my bait to the hook and start throwing it around. I fancast and try to cover as much water as possible. It’s a little like dragging for bedding bass except that you can fish much faster and cover a lot more water in a day.

And, most importantly, you’ll catch more bass. Don’t worry too much about what bait you throw. If they’re eating, they’ll grab almost anything. If you have doubts about what color to go with, find something that looks like a shad. If the water’s dingy, make sure it has some chartreuse on it. You’ll be fine.

Smallmouth are very depth sensitive at this time of the year. Make sure you cover all the water vertically as well as horizontally.  Once you find them, they’ll probably be at that same depth everywhere in the lake. That makes it pretty easy when you move from one place to another.

After we struggle through the next couple of weeks things should settle down. We’ll be able to catch them with traditional patterns and with traditional baits. I’m looking forward to that.

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