View Full Version : Great lake Smallies

05-26-2008, 05:29 PM
Springtime Great Lake Smallies Tactics

by Scott M. Petersen (SPeter1003@aol.com)

Living in the Midwest we are really blessed, we get to witness center stage the 4 seasons that Mother Nature sends our way every year. In the fall we get to choose between grabbing guns or continue on with rods during the fall months, leading us up to the ice fishing season. You gotta love ice fishing; fishing through a little hole, on ice thick enough to drive a truck on but the 20 below nights are what make it a little tough to get through the winters up north. That could be why many people across the country question our sanity but all I can say to that is just once all they have to do is go fishing for smallies one spring on one of the Great Lakes and they too will be asking where we buy some of those warm winter cloths.

Being a diehard bass fisherman for almost all of my life I was hooked on largemouth ever since the first largemouth grabbed my cork popper working its way across the lake surface. Many a days when I was not playing baseball as a kid I would be wading the lake a block from my house with fly rod in hand; seeing how many fish I could catch that day. Most of the times gills were my target fish but I would hang closer to the pads to see if I could get a few bass to bite every chance I could get. Once I started to tournament bass fishing I was introduced first hand up close and personal to Mr. Bronze back and to this day if I have to choose between largemouth and smallmouth I would have to say smallmouth is the fish that I would pursue day in and day out, if I had a choice, but for now I get my Great Lakes smallie fix about 6 times a year.

Springtime is the most interesting smallie bite of the season in my opinion. Smallie start to head into the shallower cuts off of the main lake to start to spawn. This movement will be like many other lakes except when you are fishing the Great Lakes there is more water and with more water is the bonus of more fish. During the spring you will see waves of fish come in and go back out as the next wave moves in. On smaller lakes the smallies will be in and out in a few weeks but on the Great Lakes the spawning season can last close to a month.

Once ice out happens and the sun starts to do its work you will see water temps start to climb and you will see the first wave of smallies starting to make their trek towards the shallows. Smallies will start by holding in deeper water outside the spawning areas waiting for the temps to reach the low 50’s. When the smallies are in the deeper water they are schooled tight so if you can find one you will likely find more in the area. The target depth to look for here is 8ft to 12ft. If the day is warmer they will move shallower but if you are faced with a cold front conditions they will move deeper to ride out the weather change, so make the proper adjustments with current weather conditions.

When fishing these conditions looking for pre-spawn smallies, jurk baits make a perfect choice to cover water looking for biters. My first choice in this style bait is a Rapala Deep X-Rap when the smallies are sitting in the deeper 10ft to 12ft range. This bait will get down deep enough to get bites when the smallies are just starting to come out of deep water and starting to stage waiting for the temps to start to rise. Another bait choice that will fish deep is the new X-Rap Shad. Cast this bait out, pull it down and use a stop and go retrieve back to the boat.

If the smallies are ridding out a cold front passing though I will switch and use an Outkast Touchdown Jig rigged with a Spider Grub. Smallies will hold close to the bottom during cold front conditions so to get in their zone nothing works better than a Touchdown Jig. Cast it out let it settle to the bottom then go to work. Drag the jig along the bottom, and work slow as the smallies will be shut off and in a non chasing mood so if you think you are fishing slow enough fish even slower during tough cold front conditions.

As water temps climb to the high 50’s smallies will be on the move shallower it is time to break out the suspending jurk baits. If the smallies are active a #10 X-Rap will get the nod, if they are still on the slow side I will opt to use a #10 Husky Jurk. The difference between the two baits is the X-Rap is a slash bait and has a little more side to side action than the Husky Jurk does. When the smallies are active and eating X-Rap will be the bait of choice but when they are little subdued Husky Jurks will get you more fish by the end of the day.

When the temps reach the low 60’s smallies will start to roam the shallows looking for areas to spawn and food, this is when you start to see action like you have never seen if you have never fished the Great Lakes before. It is key that you still cover water with subtle baits. In my years I have found that a simple grub and jig combination works best for when the smallies are just hitting the shallows. Outkasts Money Jig tipped with a Fat Tail Grub make a perfect combination. 3/32oz, 1/8oz and 3/16oz Money Jigs tipped with Green Pumpkin/Green Flake Fat Tail has been the best combination in the spring with Watermelon/Red Flake running a close second for me. Fishing this bait presentation is simple, make your cast and slowly start to reel. When the line straightens out set the hook you have a bite.

If the bite is slow or you are faced with fishing through a cold front try a Money Jig tipped with a Stick Worm. You can fish this bait combination in two different ways, one is to swim the Stick Worm back to the boat or two you can fish it with a traditional lift and drop retrieve. If you are going to swim the Stick Worm fish the bait just like you would the grub. Make your cast, count down the bait to the level you want to fish at, and slowly start to reel. When your line tightens set the hook.

If you are looking to fish the Stick Worm with a traditional lift and drop method make an adjustment to the Money Jig size before you start. If you are using an 1/8oz jig for your grub fishing down size the jig to 1/16oz or 3/32oz. This will give the bait more glide as the bait falls; this is key in getting the smallies to bite when conditions are tough. Make your cast and let the bait settle to the bottom; with the smaller jig this may take longer so be patient but pay attention as the bait falls. With the lift and drop retrieve of this bait many of your bites will come when the bait is falling so pay close attention as the bait falls and when you pick it up to move the bait, many times this is when the strike will happen. With either retrieve let the smallies tell you what they want.

Do not let another spring pass before you decide to take advantage of the Great Lakes smallie bite. Tactics are pretty easy grab yourself a handful of jigs, a few tails, some jurk baits and away you can go. When the smallies hit the shallows it’s all over except for the catching part.

One important point try not to target smallies that are sitting on beds, let them spawn. There will be enough smallies in the shallows that you will not have to target spawning fish. If you do catch a few please remember to release all spawning smallies to tend to the task at hand.

Make some memories please remember to practice CPR (Catch, Photo and Release). The future of fishing is in your hands

05-26-2008, 06:00 PM
"One important point try not to target smallies that are sitting on beds, let them spawn. There will be enough smallies in the shallows that you will not have to target spawning fish. If you do catch a few please remember to release all spawning smallies to tend to the task at hand.

Make some memories please remember to practice CPR (Catch, Photo and Release). The future of fishing is in your hands."

very well put. Smallies are better quarry than largemouth. You haven't caught a fighter till you see a smallie jump 3 times before you land it.