Oklahoman Edwin Evers shocked the bass community in 2015 when he won a midsummer Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on New York’s St. Lawrence River by catching hefty smallmouth bass as shallow as 2 feet deep. Aren’t the brown ones supposed to be lurking in the dark depths in July and August?
During the previous Elite Series tournament on the St. Lawrence in 2013 many of the heaviest smallmouth limits were caught 30 feet deep and deeper. Deep bass were present when Evers won, but they were not as plentiful as in the 2013 event. He credits a full moon for keeping more of the smallmouth in the shallows.
Florida Elite Series pro Bernie Schultz agrees that more smallmouth were shallow when Evers won. However, Schultz claims that in northern waters like the St. Lawrence, Lake Champlain and Lake St. Clair, there are always enough shallow smallmouth to fare well in a tournament.
Schultz finished 15th in the St. Lawrence event that Evers won. He finished sixth at the 2013 Elite tournament there. He caught his bass shallow at both events.
“I’ve made checks at just about every northern smallmouth tournament I’ve fished in the summertime,” Schultz said. “I always fish shallow, and I have a lot of water to myself.”
Under normal midsummer conditions, there are far more smallmouth bass in deep water than in the shallows, Schultz conceded. His shallow strategy consists of covering a lot of water and targeting fewer scattered bass.
“The key is having shallow water adjacent to deep water,” Schultz said. “Twenty to 30 feet would be great.”
The shallow feeding area could be a shoal, reef, point or sandbar. If there is vegetation present, it is typically pencil reeds. Since shallow smallmouth tend to be here today and gone tomorrow, it is imperative that you have a milk run. The more shallow feeding locations you hit the better your odds for piecing together a substantial limit.
Most of the lures in Schultz’s extensive shallow water arsenal are moving baits that draw the bass up.
“In clear northern lakes it’s important to keep your bait over their heads,” Schultz said.
A Hildebrandt Drum Roller originally designed for redfish, is one of Schultz’s primary shallow water smallmouth baits. He dresses the hook with a 4-inch, Z-Man Laminate Swimmerz swimbait.
His other lures include small swimbaits and topwater plugs, including Rapala’s Skitter V and Storm’s Arashi Cover Pop. Add to this hard jerkbaits and soft stickbaits.
“Once I find some fish I’ll slow down with a tube or drop shot,” Schultz said. “I’ve caught smallmouth on a drop shot in less than 2 feet of water.”