Because of the mild winter, it looks like it’s going to be an early spring. That means we’d better change our tactics if we expect to catch them. I usually start wandering into the creeks and backwater areas with crankbaits and jerkbaits sometime around the first of March. I’ll start next week this year, just as soon as the water temperature hits 49 or 50 degrees.
At first I’ll stop at the first or second point inside the mouth of the creek. That’s usually the first place they stop to wait for more warmth. I fish those points carefully and make sure I cover all the water. At this time of year, smallmouth have a tendency to move in and out on the points and up and down in the water column.
One trick that I’ve used at times is to fish against the point. What I mean is that I put my boat up against the bank, right where the point hits it. I crank my baits back towards the shore. A lot of guys think that’s crazy but when they look in my livewell they think something else. It works.
As the weather gets warmer, the smallies can be found a little farther back in the creek on the second and third points, and a little farther in toward shallower water. That’ll be just before they move to the beds. This can be a great time to catch big ones.
My favorite lures during this movement are crankbaits and jerkbaits. It’s important that my crankbaits run deep and that they hold their action at slow speeds. There are several good ones on the market. Pick the one you have the most confidence in and go with it.
Jerkbaits are different. It’s hard to find ones that’ll run deep. Smithwick and Rapala both make ones that do, however. Some of the Rogues will run in the 8 to 12 foot range and do a pretty good job of suspending. I like them. Another super bait — maybe my favorite — is the Rapala X-Rap. It will cast easily and runs true out of the box. I like the XR 12. It only runs about 8 feet but it’s a fish catcher, to be sure.
No matter which bait I fish with, however, I always throw it on Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line. I want the strength that it provides and I like the way it helps me pull down the bait to keep it working as deep as possible.
My colors are ordinary. If the water’s dark, stained or muddy, I throw something bright. If it’s clear with a lot of light penetration I go with natural looking, light colors. I suggest you do the same thing, at least until you find something that works better.
Don’t wait too long for the early prespawn females to start making their move. If you do, you might miss them and lose out on one of the best times of the year to go smallmouth fishing.