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Down Deep, I Truly Like Smallmouth

By Dave Duwe - September 1, 2009
"... the warmer surface water is lighter than the cooler water down deep. It makes the lake stratified like a layer cake."
In late summer and early fall, smallmouth bass will school up in the deep reaches of a lake. Most of the time, this phenomenon happens on lakes that have a thermocline. A thermocline is the separation in a lake between the warm surface water and the colder water near the bottom. This happens because the warmer surface water is lighter than the cooler water down deep. It makes the lake stratified like a layer cake. There are several lakes that fit the bill for deep smallmouth bass in southeastern WI my favorites are Lake Mendota in Dane County, Lake Geneva in Walworth County and Pine Lake in Waukesha County.

Smallmouth bass prefer areas of scattered weeds and rock. The main forage for the fish is the crawfish earlier in the summer and as fall progresses their taste will switch to the baitfish,such as chubs, shiners and yellow perch.

There are a lot of ways to catch these deep fish. My personal favorites are drop shotting, Carolina rigging or live bait rigging.

For drop shotting, I will use a 3/8 oz Xcalibur Tungsten weight, a 1 foot leader with a size 2 octopus hook. I prefer a red hook since it seems to produce the most action. I tip the rig with a Yum brand Houdini worm, watermelon with red flake is always a great choice. I fish straight beneath the boat, I like a longer fishing rod, 6'6" to 7'0", my Cardinal reels are spooled with 6-8 lb test Trilene, the clearer the water, the lighter the line. I use a shake (4-5 times) and pause method to initiate a strike.

For the Carolina rig approach, I choose a baitcaster reel spooled with a 17 lb and a 10 lb Fluorocarbon leader. For over 20 ft of water, I will use a ¾ oz weight with a 1/0 worm hook with a 24 inch leader. My lure selection is an Arkie Crawlin Grub in rootbeer or watermelon black/red flake. If the grub doesn't work, I then switch to a green pumpkin 6" lizard. I make long casts and basically drag the rig back to the boat. Most of the time, I will cast perpendicular to the structure and work it over the structure.

If artificial methods aren't working, I'm not shy about lindy rigging them with live bait. Due to the deep water, I will use a ½ oz walking sinker with a size 6 hook. The preferred length of the rig is similar to the Carolina rig of 24 inches. I work the rig backtrolling vertical over the structure; fishing with a lot of line out will make you lose the feel of the presentation. The bait of choice is either nightcrawlers or small suckers both will be hooked in the head. The gear I fish is exactly like that of the drop shot rig.

The primary locations I search for are rock and scattered weeds. Main lake deep points are a great place to start. The spots are evident with the use of a good color graph. My choice is a Hummingbird 957c combo. With a color graph, the bottom hardness will be easy to detect.

As a rule, the fish will be schooled up and if you catch one, you will probably get sore arms reeling in a lot of fish. An average day for me with schooling fish would be 15 fish in a 4 hour fishing trip.

Don't be like most people and fish too shallow. Deep water offers an abundance of opportunities. This late summer try some deep water smallmouth, you might just be surprised at how well you do.

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website .
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