Turn around for prespawn smallies

I was fishing the other day with Paul Mueller, a new member of my pro staff, when I learned an important lesson about early prespawn smallmouth. We were fishing a long, gravel point when we noticed tons of arches on my electronics. They were everywhere around my boat, but I couldn’t get anything to bite between my boat and the bank no matter what lure I used or how I worked it.

Mueller turned his back to the bank and started throwing a hard jerkbait right out in the middle of the lake. The water he was fishing was between 50 and 60 feet deep. In just a few minutes he boated several quality smallmouth, one good largemouth and a decent spot. I stood there with my mouth hanging open. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone do anything like that. It’s April. Why would anyone throw a bait out over open water away from the bank, especially water that was as deep as where he was fishing? I finally got up the nerve to ask him what the heck he was thinking.

He explained that at this time of the year far too many anglers fish up against the bank. The theory is that it’s spring so that’s where they should be. But, that’s not always true. Lots of times they hold way off the bank, over deep water with no intention of moving in the immediate future. They might be doing this because that’s where the forage is, or they might be waiting for the water to warm up some more. Either way, that’s where they were when we were fishing.

I’ll admit that I have a tendency to do exactly what he says a lot of us do. I move in against the bank thinking they’re up there feeding and getting ready to spawn. I’m going to do less of that now, though.

Another thing I realized after several hours of throwing away from the bank is that some of the fish are suspended shallow enough where you can catch them with a jerkbait, but a lot of them are really deep. We caught a handful of good ones with a drop shot rig in 50 feet of water. Obviously, the fish were everywhere in the water column.

This is serious stuff. Just because it’s spring doesn’t mean the fish are shallow or that they’re up near the bank. That comes as hard to believe for many of us. I’ve always moved shallow at this time of the year. I’m think that was probably a mistake. Mother Nature is complicated. We need to remember that when we go fishing.

The simple lesson here is to turn your back to the bank if you’re not catching them up shallow. The bigger lesson, though, is to look around when the fish aren’t where you think they ought to be. Sometimes you don’t have to run for miles up and down the lake to find them. All you have to do is turn around.

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