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BASSIN’ Action on the Bay’s de Noc!

By Captain Marty Papke - June 1, 2002
Walleye's, walleye's and always walleye's, but what about the Smallmouth Bass fishing on the Bay's de Noc!
When the great lakes are mentioned now-a-days it's getting to be known as a fishery of large proportion with species like lake trout, salmon, northern pike, walleye and smallmouth bass. Many people throughout the midwest are finding out that the Great Lakes waters of Lake Michigan support some other tremendous species of fish. When it comes to action, acrobatics, and just pure fun it's the Bronze-Back of all sports fish, the Smallmouth Bass!!!! Whether the scrappy little one-pounder's or the trophy's reaching 5 to 6 pounds and larger, Smallmouth Bass without a doubt are soon becoming "Thee" sought after fish and talked about fish at the coffee shop!

Now don't get me wrong fellow anglers as I thrive on walleye fishing myself but if your looking for some of the most active fishing on the Bays de Noc waters try a summertime adventure for Smallmouth Bass.

Quoting Russ Warye, the senior research editor of Fishing Hot Spots as well serving as fishing educator and publisher of many books of one which is titled, "Smallmouth! America's Top Bass Waters he talks about the Bays' de Noc waters saying, "Little Bay de Noc burst on the Midwestern fishing scene in the late 1980's and early 1990's. In fact the "Bays" were probably the hottest fishing destination in the north-central states. Forgotten and totally ignored were expanding numbers of smallmouth bass that also displayed high growth rates and incredible smallmouth action including outings of 50 or more quality fish per day," indeed Russ is right. That's right so much fun you can't believe it, the last years we have been capitalizing on this sporting fish and here are some of the spots, techniques and times that work the best for us. In the last years and through our many articles we've always emphasized our philosophy of "teaching people how to fish" and continue. We want fisherman to learn and have fun and sharing experiences and ideas hoping to putting you in the "big-fish" photo!

Whether the scrappy little one-pounder's or the trophy's reaching 5 to 6 pounds and even larger, Smallmouth Bass without a doubt are soon the fish talked around the campfire!

Locational factors are simple: rocks, gravel, sand, reedbeds and some more rocks! You must remember that before these fish get into their reproduction mode certain water temperatures must be met. When waters temperature reaches the mid 50 degrees its time to start searching for smallmouth activity. This is when the males will start to making their spawning beds, using their tails to clean areas generally twice their size. When spawning occurs on hard bottom surfaces its just a sweeping off of the area, where sandy areas are used depressions may occur 2 to 4 inches deep. Once beds are formed and the water temps have reached 60 and 65 degrees this is when spawning begins. Average deposits of 7000 to 8000 eggs per pound of body weight is what a female smallmouth bass will leave at the nest in company with the "buck" bass. The spawn is over and now the guarding of the nest follows by the male staying real close to chase off intruders. Fishing these fish can be lots of fun and spot fishing or hunting these fish is the game. It's important to remember that catch and release is of utmost importance at this time of year.

This gives you a profile of Mr. Bronzeback now lets pattern him and check out some fishing methods and locations.

Pattern One: Jigs and Plastics can be one of the hottest methods for catching spring-time bass. One of my favorites is a LipStick jig in 1/8 ounce size with a Power Grub. Jig worms are another excellent producer of bass bites. Power Tubes where the jig head is slide over the entire jig body leaving it's enticing dangling legs is a great attractor. These baits can mostly be fished by spot or locating fish prior to the cast many times these spring bite bass will readily chase down this presentation. A cast with slow jigging retrieve with the rod tip pointed up is most preferred. When fishing deeper water jig/plastic combinations work well also. Generally a slowed down pop-hop or a favorite of mine is dragging a tube over the sand, gravel or through the reeds gets many strikes!. This method of fishing bass can be very productive throughout the entire fishing season. Colors are another question often asked? Colors to the waters and I'd suggest crawfish and shiner are two good choices.

Pattern Two: Minnow baits are another choice for these Lake Michigan "scrapper's" and always having several rods rigged with them is important. Berkley's New Frenzy crankbaits are a deadly early season bass bait. Colors can vary but Fire Tiger ranks high for us. The key to using these baits is a slow methodical retreive and it drives these fish crazy! Long casts work well, retrieving back to the boat with a reel, long pausing the bait and the twitch works best. Locational patterns to using these baits in addition to spring time spawning is rock reefs, over weedbeds and shoreline obstructions like shipping channel break walls and pilings. Summer time haunts for Smallies generally are the deeper water surrounding the early season spawning areas and hold some choice bass action when using minnow baits. This minnow bait method is an excellent back up to jig fishing for Smallies and should be used throughout the entire open water season. Fishing over deeper waters and slow twitching these baits can many times get some sky rocketing strikes from bass seeing the bait far above them.

Pattern Three: Surface tactics can be some of the most high, intense fishing there is. Working a floating minnow baits with "silver-eye's" or buzzing a Reed Runner spinner bait across the surface is sure to get ones heart pumping. June and July tend to be those high intensity months for surface tactics. Long casts across rock beds and shallow reedbed areas having cover, food and active swimming bass are first picks.

Other surface baits and prop baits do a great job, chug baits too and when it comes to excitement a fish exploding on one of these baits is close to stopping the heart! Times of the day and all day a surface bite can occur with some regularity. Mobility from spot to spot will usually result in good catches. In the clear waters of Big Bay De Noc fishing deeper waters with surface baits bring some great acrobatic strikes!

Attention to all you "fly-fisherman" and are avid fly-fisherman!
This sport fish can be some of the most thrilling fishing you've encountered. Check it Out! Using floating bugs, streamer flys and poppers are excellent methods of catching these bass over shallow water locations.

Putting it all together: this means setting up a pattern of fishing these areas productively and learning about Smallmouth Bass tells you they are very "sound" sensitive and do hear well. Engines should be shut down in advance of fishing areas and proceed in by electric power. Boat control is critical in any fishing situation and the importance of mobility and versatility always helps you catch more fish! Minn Kota quiet and the Genesis with auto-pilot gets us to and over the spots with complete automation. Its important having the right equipment to getting the job done right and making for an enjoyable trip.

Tackle choices are simple with medium action spinning and casting rods with light action reels. Abu Garcia Tournament rods and reels fill this nitch well and using 4 to 8 pound XL line with our spinning equipment and up sizing with 8 to 10 pound XT on our baitcasters pretty much compliments all our fishing applications for the fish we'd like to call the "jumping-jacks" of the Bay's De Noc water's! Looking at another Great Lakes fish, check out the "smallies" of the Bay's waters and do like many of our regular clients do and split a day of fishing for early morning walleye into some fast action bass! The one-two punch!

Charter trips are one of the easiest ways to learning the methods talked about and really seeing how much "fun" this Smallmouth Bass fishing can be

Author Captain Marty Papke

Captain Marty Papke
Captain Marty Papke is the owner of Little Bay De Noc Fishing Charters. Captain Papke wears many hats as a full-time fishing educator, communicator and guide. Marty authors dozens of articles annually for fishing publications, and is frequently used as a source of information by other outdoor writers. You can get a hold of Marty at 1-800-708-2347 or email him at [email protected]. You can also get more information about his guide service by visiting
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