Summertime in most of the U.S. means a rising thermometer and sweating through a sun buff-now-turned-COVID facemask. This is often true even in smallmouth country where big smallmouth follow the cooler water out to the depths.
Spring and fall are usually the best times to catch both numbers and size on most smallmouth fisheries, but summertime can still be one of the most fun times of year to target smallmouth in your neck of the woods. It just takes some looking around and a handful of tried-and-true presentations to keep fishing hot through the dog days of summer.
1. Drop shot
If you’ve ever been smallmouth fishing before, chances are you’ve used a drop shot. That’s for good reason. It is probably the most effective way to catch smallmouth all year long. When the bass finish their spawning rituals and start making their way to summertime haunts, a drop shot shines bright. You can drag or video game fish this bait around high percentage areas such as the drops outside of spawning flats, humps, rock shoals and current seams to name a few.
The reason it’s number one on my list is it’s the most effective vertical presentation of the five. As the water keeps warming bass can go deep — real deep. On my home waters of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania, I’ve caught bass as deep as 55-60 feet in the middle of the summer. A drop shot with a heavier weight can get down to those depths quickly and be fished effectively because you still have plenty of feel which is important when detecting bites can be tricky at times.
Some of my favorite baits for drop shotting in the summertime are the Berkley Maxscent Flat Worm, Flatnose Minnow, and 4-inch General. Depending on the fishes' moods, these usually will cover the sometimes-finicky mood changes of smallmouth in the summer. Smallmouth are very scent oriented when fishing on the bottom — there’s just something about that Berkley Maxscent that triggers those neutral fish better than others.