Eager to go north and fish for smallies

With the southern swing of the Bassmaster Elites behind us, it’s time for the fun to begin.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy fishing southern waters. I do. I grew up fishing them.

But our annual Northern Swing takes us to big smallmouth and cooler weather. It’s been brutal here in Texas with 100-plus temperatures on consecutive days.

I wish I could dedicate a couple of months each year to fishing northern waters for smallmouth. Those are such great fisheries, and the smallmouth is my favorite fish to pursue and catch.

We’re headed to St. Lawrence River in New York next, a fishery where I began my Bassmaster career in 1992. That’s when I caught my first smallmouth too, and it was a tournament where I finished ninth despite my limited knowledge of smallmouth fishing.

Since then, I have logged four more top 10 finishes on that fishery over the years, so obviously I love fishing there. It’s a great community, the weather is phenomenal and the fish are so aggressive. When possible, I try to stay a few extra days after our tournament because I enjoy fishing up there so much.

Smallmouth are sight predators, and the clear water — in addition to the large goby population that sustains them — equate to an awesome population of smallmouth that grow bigger and pull hard.

Granted, when I first went up there all you had to do was wind a spinnerbait fast to catch them. But with the introduction of non-native gobies that thrive on the bottom, bottom bouncing lures that mimic the forage tend to work better.

Rick Clunn won my first tournament there with 44 pounds over a three-day event. It would not surprise me if it took 100 pounds this year in the four-day Elite. That shows how much the fishery has improved.

I mention the St. Lawrence because it’s a place we have visited often over my career, but I love all of those northern fisheries. I’d have to say Lake St. Clair near Detroit is my second favorite while Lake Champlain (N.Y.) would be third. Someday, I hope to go to Sturgeon Bay (Wisc.) where there is limited pressure on a giant body of water. I really like those kinds of fisheries and typically do well on them.

Like most of those big, northern waters, the bass are big and aggressive, and the weather and scenery make it a very enjoyable day on the water.