Smallmouth movements

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.

Let’s talk this week about smallmouth movements when we get weather changes like we’ve had for the past month or six weeks. It’s important that we think about that because as February turns into March we’re going to have more temperature swings and storm systems that last anywhere from one to three or four days.

Probably the first thing that we all need to keep in mind is that when smallies move at this time of the year they don’t move very far. If they come into the creeks with the warm rains like they did early this week they’ll mostly move vertical — if they can — when it turns bitter cold like it has yesterday and today.

So, if I was out on Monday fishing and I went again today I’d probably start my fishing in the same area but I’d fish four or five feet deeper. If I didn’t find them at that depth I’d move out towards the main lake but I’d do it real slow and only a few feet at a time. They aren’t going to go all the way back to where they were earlier. They’ll just move far enough to avoid the worst of the weather.

This short movement will go on until at least March when they settle on the beds. At that point they won’t move at all unless they have to because of dropping water or something like that. Weather changes have to be really extreme to get them to do anything, and that isn’t likely when you stop to think about how deep a smallmouth bass spawns. (In my neighborhood that’s typically around 20 feet.)

That brings up another point that I’ve been wanting to talk about for some time. The smallmouth’s range in this country covers a lot of territory. Weather conditions are very different from one end of its range to the other. Up in the northern states ice still covers everything so what I just said won’t happen for at least another month. And, at the southern end of the range it might have already started.

Another factor you have to think about is what we talked about last week — water clarity. If the water you fish is dark and dingy it’ll not only warm up faster but it’ll also hold the heat for a lot longer. That means less movement when the weather turns cold.

You could have two lakes in the same area but with one clear and the other dark. The fish in the clear water lake will move farther than the ones is the dark water lake. They don’t have to move as far to maintain the same living conditions.

The bottom line to all this is that we need to keep in mind that when smallmouth move early in the year they don’t move all that far. Sometimes we — almost everyone has a tendency to do it — think they move a long ways when in reality they probably only move a few feet, and often times that’s vertical instead of horizontal.

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