Great Lakes smallie fishing

It's one thing to have the knowledge to fish for smallmouth bass in the Great Lakes at this time of year; it's another to have the tools. Below is a list of tackle that bass fishing pro Joe Balog and TV host Mark Davis depend on for their bronzeback fishing.

Joe Balog
For tube fishing: Daiwa Mike Iaconelli Signature Series, 7-6 medium heavy spinning with a Daiwa Sol or Advantage 2500 spinning reel and Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon

"I am typically fishing tubes on deep and rough water on the Great Lakes and need to pick up a lot of line quickly to set the hook," Balog said. "This rod is just awesome. I use fluorocarbon for almost everything in spring — 12-pound for blades, spoons and jerkbaits; 6- or 8-pound for tubes and hair jigs.

Mark Davis
For tube fishing: All Star P 843MS 7-0 spinning rod and Pflueger Supreme 8035MG reel or All Star P 783 (6-6) casting rod with Pflueger Patriarch or Summit wide spool reel

For a drop shot rig: All Star P 762S (6-4) spinning rod and Pflueger Supreme 8035MG

His line of choice is Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon. "The secret is having long line out, so low stretch is the key to success," Davis said. "I use the lowest stretch fluorocarbon line I can find or braid with a fluorocarbon leader using either the double uniknot or Albright knot. Berkley's Vanish and Spiderwire are my favorites."

Best lures for the occasion
When it comes down to what lures are best, Joe Balog keeps it simple. In fact, only four baits comprise his early spring arsenal:

  • hair jigs (1/4 to 1/2 ounce) in white or gray to resemble shiners
  • blade baits (1/2 to 5/8 ounce), such as the Silver Buddy
  • slab spoons (1/2 to 3/4 ounce), such as the Hopkins or Cordell C.C. Spoon, in silver
  • tube jigs (1/4 to 1/2 ounce) in watermelon, smoke purple or smoke gold

  • Spoons produce best in the upper 30s and low 40 degree temperature range. Blades shine most often in 42 to 48 degree water. The window of opportunity for hair jigs may be brief. "But when they are biting a hair jig, you can leave everything else at home," Balog added.

    "I put all four out and throw all four at every single place I fish, but the fish will always let you know what they want," said Balog. "At no other time will fish show a more distinct preference for baits. Half the time, they prefer the tube. The other half they want one of the others. It's either no bites or a bunch of bites this time of year."

    Later, as temperatures rise, the tube will become his go-to bait with a drop shot goby bait next in line.

    Some good lure options include:

    Hopkins Spoon (1/2- to 3/4-ounce)
    Hopkins Fishing Lures
    phone: 757-855-2500

    C.C. Spoon
    Cotton Cordell Lure Co.
    phone: 479-782-8971

    Coffee Tube
    Strike King Lure Co.
    phone: 901-853-1455

    Power Bait Power Grub (3- and 4-inch) or Gulp Alive Goby
    phone: 877-777-3850

    Kalin's Triple Threat Grub or Lunker Grub
    Uncle Josh Bait Co.
    phone: 866-BIG-BASS

    ISG Plastic Tubes
    Innovative Sport Group

    Yum Tube or Mega Tube
    Yum Bait Co.
    phone: 479-782-8971

    Poor Boy's Baits

    Silver Buddy
    Silver Buddy Lures

    Rod Bender's Tackle
    phone: 740-435-3078

    No-Snagg Sinkers and Rigs
    phone: 218-829-1714