Bass don’t read the books that anglers do.
That’s not to say the information you glean from Bassmaster or B.A.S.S. Times, or even my Bass Strategies book, are fiction. There is a definite methodology to patterning them.
But sometimes you have to think outside the box, something I was reminded of a couple of weeks ago while fishing for smallmouth with my boys on Lake Michigan.
The Great Lakes have a lot of rocky shoals and underwater points. It’s extremely clear – you can see the bottom in 30 feet or more. We had been catching a few fish scattered in 25 to 40 feet when I decided to move to another area. As I idled toward another point, big fish appeared on my Humminbird, lounging within 5 feet of the bottom in much deeper water. I dropped my trolling motor and began easing over the area, watching the bow electronics for more. I saw a fish in 70 feet, lowered my drop shot and caught a 5-pound smallmouth! We caught several more, including one in 82 feet of water – the deepest I’ve ever caught a bass. There was no structure there; they simply held on a gradual sloping bottom off the end of the point.
This blew my mind since I’ve never looked for smallies that deep. On the other hand, it was hot weather, the water temp was in the mid-70s, and the wind had been changing directions daily. Great Lakes winds create current and move water temperatures around beneath the surface. There was no visible thermocline, and the bass down there obviously were comfortably feeding.
We were catching them on the new Strike King Dream Drop-Shot Worm and a 3-inch Rodent which best resembled the crawfish and gobies that the bass were spitting up in my livewell. And by the way – it took more than 30 seconds for a drop shot rig with a 1/2-ounce tungsten weight to get to the bottom!
It was so deep, in fact, that I had to turn off the graph on my console because the rear sonar signal was interconnecting and interfering with the front transducer, something we rarely have to deal with in traditional bass fishing because we never fish that deep.
I’ve known that light penetration plays a role in how deep bass will live. While I could see bottom in 30 feet in some areas, I suspect the light penetrated at least twice that deep. Light penetration promotes living organisms which attracts forage.
Furthermore, smallmouth bass are predominately sight feeders, so they need some light to feed effectively.
Another phenomenon I encountered that day was that the fish didn’t have inflated air bladders, a frequent problem when winding them up from deep water. Normally, bass will struggle to get back to the bottom until their bladder returns to normal size. We caught several 3- to 5-pound smallmouth, and all of them swam off effortlessly.
That day served as another example of why I’m less fazed by bass that don’t play “by the book” and why I say, it’s all about the attitude!