I’ve caught some darn good smallmouth over my professional career. And, while I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about them, I have learned two things. One is that they’re random. The other is that they’re rogues.
What I mean by saying they’re random is that they do their own thing. They don’t seem to care about conventional wisdom. Doing what they’re supposed to do or being where they’re supposed to be means nothing to them. You need to get that in your head when you’re fishing in smallmouth territory.
Once you do that you’ll understand that catching smallies is all about moving. There’s absolutely no point in fishing an area for an hour or more. Just a few minutes is long enough. If they’re there, they’ll bite right away — smallmouth are really aggressive — and if they’re not you need to go somewhere else.
Another thing about moving is that you don’t need to try to outsmart them. Spend some time looking where they should be, but not too much. Look anywhere and everywhere, regardless of how silly a spot might seem.
I do this all the time when I’m in a smallmouth tournament. I’ll just pull up my trolling motor and start running around. If I see something that looks interesting, I’ll stop and fish it for 10 or 15 minutes. That’s worked for me over the years, and I have no problem recommending it to any other angler.
Once you find them you won’t need all that many lures to catch them.
Probably the most reliable bait is a common Ned rig. Make it with whatever you want. But make it and use it. Day in and day out it’ll catch them anywhere and at anytime. After that I’d have to say that the second most reliable setup is a drop shot. My third and fourth choices are dragging a tube or casting a jerkbait.
Any one of them might catch more smallies than the others on any given day, but they’re all effective and, really, they’re about all you’ll ever need.
I haven’t forgotten topwater baits, though. It’s a fun way to catch them but it’s not the most efficient. One problem I’ve had with them over the years is that smallmouth seem to miss them a lot. I’m not sure why. It might be because their mouths are small. Because of that I don’t fish with topwaters much unless I have no other choice.
When I do, though, I keep a Ned rig rod and reel handy. When one misses my topwater I throw right back into the swirl with my Ned rig as fast as possible. In my case I can’t have more than one lure in the water so I have to reel in my topwater lure first. If you’re fun fishing I suggest you just drop you topwater rod and throw the Ned rig right alongside it.
Boiling it all down, here’s my thinking: If you want to catch more smallmouth, think about finding them more than you do catching them.