Smallmouth bass and light

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.

We’ve talked a little the past couple of weeks about the fact that smallmouth are aggressive and that they’re curious creatures. Those are important traits, ones we should keep in mind when we’re out fishing for them.

Now, let’s look at another trait that affects smallmouth bass behavior. That’s their complete and total aversion to light. They hate it, can’t stand it. They will go to great lengths to get away from it. (There is one exception to this rule that we’ll talk about later in the column.)

I have no idea why this is but I can tell you for a fact that it’s true. I can count on one hand the number of smallies I’ve caught in the light. It doesn’t seem to make any difference if it’s daytime or nighttime. And the light doesn’t have to be all that intense, either.

They’ll scatter a little bit and hit topwater baits if there’s heavy cloud cover during the day but the first time the sun shows, even for a minute, that bite stops dead. The same thing happens after dark. Throw a Zara Spook with the full moon shining on the water and you’ll be lucky if you get a swirl. Throw it alongside a dark bank and you’d better hold on because they’re going to tear it up.

The same thing happens with all other types of baits regardless of whether or not they’re working through the water column or lying on the bottom. Throw them on sunny spots, or places with a lot of moonlight, and you’re wasting your time. Go into the dark and you’re much more likely to catch one.

All this is based on my experiences. It could be that I see this so much because most of my fishing is in clear water lakes. Light penetrates much deeper when the water is as clear as that coming out of your kitchen sink. But, here’s the thing, I catch largemouth in the same water where there is light. After everything is said and done, I’m convinced it’s a smallmouth thing.

I bring this up now because it’s getting to be fall. Depending on where you live it might be below freezing some nights right now. That makes it really cold early in the morning when you launch your boat. It’s very tempting to fish out where the sun is warming you up.

Don’t do it!

Toughen up and brave the elements. Stay away from the sun. You’ll catch more brown bass. That, in and of itself, will help warm you up. I can’t remember being cold right after I landed a 4- or 5-pound smallie.

Earlier I said there was one exception. That’s early in the spring during the prespawn. For some crazy reason, there’ll be a few days when they’ll bite right under a strong sun. That’s almost always when I’m throwing a crankbait.

As interesting as that might be, however, it doesn’t help us catch them right now. The prespawn is a ways off. We’ll worry about it when it comes.

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