Smallies in the Great Lakes

In my opinion there’s no better place to fish for smallmouth bass than at the Great Lakes and the surrounding area. It’s turned into a dream location for both numbers and size. That’s true of all the Great Lakes, but some are obviously better than others. 

I suppose the first one that comes to mind is Lake Erie. There’s no doubt that it’s a premier location. The fishing there is fantastic. In my opinion, however, the very best spot there is out of all of them is the Traverse City, Michigan, area. From there you can access some of Lake Michigan’s best spots.

Another thing that’s great about Traverse City is that it offers other lakes that have great smallmouth populations. The wind can be a problem on any of the Great Lakes and that definitely includes Lake Michigan. If you plan a trip and get hit with high winds for several days that keep you off the lake, you can always fish some of the smaller lakes in the area and have just as much fun. 

It’s hard to pick a “best” lure for this fishing unless you know exactly what the weather will be like and exactly what season you’re going to be fishing. But, there are some that’ll be good most of the time. 

If the bass move a little shallow you can always crank the edges of the flats, or maybe just up on them a little ways. I go with Strike King crankbaits. There’s a bunch of them. Pick the one that most closely matches the forage when you’re out there. That means size, color and running depth. 

Another good choice when the bite isn’t especially aggressive or when they’re holding on their first staging points, going in or out, is a suspending jerkbait. The good ones look and act natural and they’re subtle enough to attract hesitant smallmouth. My favorite is the Strike King KVD 300 model.

And then there’s always the old standby, the Silver Buddy. It’s almost always good for a few brown bass. Depending upon water clarity either silver or gold will work. I know a lot of anglers like to jig them, but I’ve had success slow rolling them along the bottom. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking these lures are only for the fall and winter. They’re good all the time, 12 months a year. (Yes, they fish them under the ice.) But don’t get too picky about brand names. I have a number of homemade ones that catch ‘em. I call all blade baits Silver Buddys. It’s kind of like calling a paper tissue a Kleenex. 

Color matters with smallies. It’s important that everything look natural to them. So always pick something that looks like what they’re eating where you’re fishing. There is, however, an exception to every rule. For some reason smallmouth either love or hate chartreuse. I’m not sure which. They attack it with a vengeance. Most of my baits have a touch of it on them somewhere.

If you’re looking for the smallmouth destination of a lifetime, don’t overlook the Great Lakes. There’s nowhere any better.