I love catching smallmouth bass, but I hate the way they abandon me in the middle of a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament.
The smallies threw me a nasty sinker at the St. Lawrence River and at Cayuga Lake the following week.
The love side of my affair with smallmouth bass began when I was a youngster. I grew up fishing highland reservoirs in the mountains of western North Carolina. These lakes have smallmouth in them, but not enough that you can target them. I would catch one every so often while casting for largemouth bass.
I caught my biggest smallmouth in North Carolina on a Pop-R when I was 10 or 11 years old. It weighed 6 pounds, 4 ounces. I had a lot of love for the brown ones that day.
What I learned about smallmouth while growing up is that they are nomadic creatures that roam around a lot. In that sense they remind me of spotted bass. Both species are baitfish oriented and follow their food source. They can be here one day and gone the next.
I learned how to fish specifically for northern smallmouth bass at Oneida Lake and Lake Champlain while competing in the Bassmaster Northern Opens. The tube and drop shot are my main smallmouth getters. Jerkbaits also play for me.
I had an awesome day drop shotting 25 to 35 feet deep on the first day of this year’s St. Lawrence Elite tournament. I sacked almost 22 pounds, which is the best I’ve ever done with smallmouth. I sure loved them that day.
I was fishing a section of the river where there was a group of islands. It wasn’t overrun with other anglers, and I thought I had the bass figured out. I went back there the second day full of confidence. I should have known better.
At 2 p.m. I only had a pair of 2-pound smallmouth in my livewell. I went into a mad scrambling mode and managed to sack 16 pounds before my time was up. I wasn’t so fond of smallmouth bass that day.
Thanks to my good catch the first day, I made the cut for Day 3. I went back to the same area not sure of what to expect. Had the bass moved out the second day, or were they just not feeding? I had an easier time getting bit, but only caught about 17 pounds. I have no idea what happened to the big ones.
However, I did finish 30-something, so it turned out to be a decent event for me. By the way, the St. Lawrence is a spectacular place to fish. The water is so clear there you can see the bottom 25 feet deep in some places.
I couldn’t figure out the big largemouth the following week at Cayuga, but I was catching some really nice smallmouth in practice by fishing a drop shot 25 to 30 feet deep. On the first day of the tournament I had almost 20 pounds of smallies in my livewell by 10 a.m. I had a blast battling them on a light ALX spinning rod and 8-pound P-Line fluorocarbon. I was back in love with the brown ones again.
I left the smallmouth to fish for largemouth after that. I caught some green ones, but nothing big enough to cull. I was feeling good on the second day as I boated back to my smallmouth hole. Again, I should have known better.
At 10 a.m. I only had two smallmouth in my livewell. They were good ones, a 3-pounder and a 4-pounder, but the rest of them had, apparently, vanished. My affection for the brown ones vanished with them. I switched gears and tried fishing for largemouth, but it just wasn’t meant to be.