Caleb Sumrall lives in New Iberia, La., about 30 minutes north of where Tabasco sauce was invented along the salty Gulf Coast shoreline. But his last three years as a Bassmaster Elite Series pro have given him an ample taste of northern smallmouth bass fishing.
He’s brought 305 pounds of the bronze bombers to the scales across eight smallmouth-dominated events for an average finish of 43rd place.
Truth is, it’s been a love-hate relationship between Sumrall and northern smallmouth. He brought 23 pounds to the scales for the heaviest limit caught among all anglers on Friday at the 2019 St. Lawrence River Elite event, but on Friday of the 2020 St. Clair Elite he managed just 11 pounds for what he called the worst smallmouth tournament day of his life.
Still, only a few minutes after weighing-in those 11 disappointing pounds, the gracious Carhartt pro was kind enough to share three things he’s learned the hard way about northern smallmouth.
1) They are not largemouth
“Northern smallmouth are strange animals. They behave totally different than largemouth and show totally different personalities from green fish. They have a temper. It’s like they wake up mad. And when they feel angling pressure, they become really temperamental and tough to catch,” says Sumrall.
2) They don’t all live in deeper water
“Fans watching Elite Series tournaments at home on ESPN2 might think every smallmouth we catch up north is on a drop shot from deeper water, but that’s not true. I’ve caught a number of big smallmouth in less than 3 feet of water in the middle of summer on the St. Lawrence River,” he explains.
3) They’ll disappear like ghost
“Smallmouth will leave you. They’re roamers. They get out and search for their food. So don’t fall in love with a school or location you found yesterday or last year. Get in the mindset that you need to be willing to move around and make the moves necessary to relocate them each day,” he warns.
Much like a plate full of boiled crawdads, you either crave ‘eem, or you wouldn’t dare put one of the hot, red mudbugs in your mouth. The same can be said for the often temperamental northern smallmouth Sumrall is doing his best to understand and gain a taste for. Even though some days they can burn you like a tongue full of hot sauce.