Weeds for July SmallmouthBy Mike Mladenik - July 1, 2006
The key to catching smallmouth in natural lakes during summer is timing. You can expect to find peak feeding periods where smallmouth will go on a feeding binge. Depending on the lake you are fishing these feeding periods can occur early or late in the day while on extremely clear water lakes feeding will occur after dark. One lake can be hot early in the day while another will see active smallmouth late in the day. This will be decided by the available forage and other predator fish. When an angler taps into these feeding periods the action can be incredible. Over the past 25 years as a guide in northern Wisconsin I have learned to take advantage of these peak periods on different lakes on the same day.
Many people choose to fish the evening period in summer. While this can be productive I feel mornings offer the best opportunities. In the evening there may be a feeding surge but it will last a short while. It is also common to find large predator fish dominating the structure you are fishing. This will cause other fish to hold off feeding. At sunup fish can be active for longer periods of time. Also you will have the option of catching more than one specie. After one predator finishes feeding another will become active.
Most early morning activity will be centered in the weeds. Prime areas can be large weedbed, the edges of bays or weedlines depending on the individual lake. Rock humps and shoreline points that contain weedgrowth are overlooked by many anglers. On multi-specie lakes these can be hot spots with muskies and walleyes relating to the primary weedlines. Each lake will have specific areas that attract smallmouth.
Peak feeding for all predator fish will occur at the crack of dawn and you should be out on the water as early as possible. On clear water lakes the action may only last a short time and if you get out to late you will miss the bite. However if overcast skies prevail the bite can continue for hours. On dark stained lakes the action can continue well into the mid morning hours regardless of the conditions. If the forecast is for clear skies fish a stained water lake and if the forecast says overcast skies fish a clear water lake.
Most northern lakes contain secondary populations of smallmouth bass. Smallmouth bass share the weeds with other predators such as musky, walleye and largemouth bass. Experience has taught me that on multi specie lakes smallmouth will relate to transition areas. Areas on the end of the weedline that mix with rock are ideal. Large smallmouth will move up out of deep water and feed at the transition. You may not catch numbers of fish on the transition but the will run big.
On some multi-specie lakes look for the largest smallmouth to feed atop off shore humps near deeper water. A prime hump will be in the five to ten foot depth range and contain both rock and weeds. Humps containing both rocks and weeds will attract both crayfish and baitfish. The more different types of forage available the larger the smallmouth will be. I have caught many big smallmouth with there mouths full of both crayfish and minnows.
When you approach a weedline look both sight and sound is important. Not only will you see baitfish breaking surface but you can also hear predator fish on the feed. If you locate surface activity head for that spot immediately and throw a spinnerbait. A big smallmouth will engulf the spinnerbait as soon as it hits the water. If you don't get a strike bulge the spinnerbait then rip it over the weeds back to the boat. What ever you do don't stop or drop the bait since these early morning feeders prefer a fast moving bait. A medium heavy 6'6" Lamiglas XC 664 or 7' Lamiglas XC 705 casting rod is preferred for fishing spinnerbaits. Spool your reel with either 12-14 pound Yo-Zuri hardcore X-Tex Cobra Line.
Topwater baits will also catch these feeding smallmouths. Experiment with different types of topwater baits. Some mornings a specific bait may be hot but if they are on the feed is usually does not make a difference. If you are catching fish on top ant the bite stops then start to vary your retrieve or use different bait. I have had many mornings where I will keep trying different baits and presentations and keep catching fish. Yo-Zuri makes several Topwater baits which include 3D Popper, ZZ POP, Live Bait popper and the Live bait ZZ Walker. The soft body of the live bait popper and the ZZ Walker are especially deadly. For more info on these great baits go to www.yo-zuri.com
Once the action stops start concentrating on the deeper edges of the weedline. Deep diving crankbaits like Yo-Zuri Crank'n Shad or Hardcore Shad will find the active fish. After you catch the active smallmouth switch over to a tube. When casting crankbaits I prefer a seven foot Lamiglas XC 704 rod with 12-14 pound Yo-Zuri Hardcore X-Tex Cobra Line.
Fishing weeds in July can result in lots of action and a few big smallmouth. Head for the water early and be prepared to be versatile.
See you on the water.