The sun’s hot. The air’s hot. The dock’s hot. The boat’s hot. The water’s hot. We’re hot. And, the smallies are hot.
Because of all that, most writers and anglers are talking about deep baits. The popular theory is that the fish are holding deep and that they are lethargic. It follows that we should fish deep with something slow, something like a jig, Texas rigged plastic or maybe a drop shot.
I don’t necessarily disagree with that but I don’t necessarily think that’s the only way to catch smallies, either. The fish are slow. There’s no arguing that. But they’re still eating, and at times they will chase something if you don’t make that chase too hard for them. That’s where a vertical, deep water presentation can come into play.
The trick to being successful with vertical presentations in the middle of the summer is to put the bait right on their nose and show them something that looks like the real thing. My choice is almost always a short-arm spinnerbait or a bladebait. They’ll both do the job.
Short-arm spinnerbaits aren’t as popular as they once were but you can still find them if you look around. Most of the major companies have at least one model. If you can’t find one that you like they’re easy enough to make. Just clip the top wire with a pair of side cutters and reattach the blade. Bend it to where you like it.
My approach with a short-arm is pretty simple. I throw it out, let it fall straight down and then lift and drop it back to the boat. It’s important to keep your bait right over the fish. They’ll grab it out of instinct but they won’t move very far to do that, at least not on most days. Make sure it falls naturally. That means straight down. If it angles towards the bottom you’ll do a lot of fishing, and not much catching.
Some of you might be surprised that I’ve included bladebaits in this column. Conventional wisdom says they imitate dying shad and therefore should be fished late in the fall. I suppose that’s right but I suspect a smallmouth bass will eat a dying shad in July and August just like she will in October or November.
Bladebaits seem to wok best if you fish them like short-arm spinnerbaits. Pull them up, off the bottom and then let them fall straight down. Do this all the way back to your boat or until they’re away from the structure your fishing.
Color doesn’t seem to be a big thing in the summer as long as it’s something close to natural. I like white, chartreuse or chartreuse and white on my spinnerbaits and plain silver on my bladebaits. If the water’s especially stained I might go with something a little darker. That doesn’t happen very often, though.
Vertical won’t work for you every time you go out. It’s not a universal cure for the summertime blues. When it does, however, it’s a productive alternative to dragging a jig.