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Smallmouth Bass Techniques

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2009/6/5 8:38
From Schuylkill County
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Although I have been flyfishing for Smallmouth Bass for years, I consider myself a novice in this area of the sport. My success has been largely limited to catching smaller fish by throwing wooly buggers and crayfish patterns in riffles and runs. It seems that many of the larger fish inhabit the long, deep, slow running holes in the rivers that I fish. My success in this type of water, for the larger fish has not been too good. Can you offer suggestions based on your experience, on how to fish this type of water for the larger fish that are found there?

Posted on: 2010/7/10 8:51


Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques
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You're certainly correct that larger river bass, esp during summer afternoons, lay up in deeper pools. Obviously, "deep" is relative. On most of the SMB rivers I fish, deep would be a pool the bottom of which I can't see if the sun is high. This would typically be at least 4+ feet. In these pools, during the afternoon, I like to hunt for noticeable structure. Bridge pilings, log jams, ledge rock - something you can see and fish 'em hard focusing mainly on the upstream side of the structure and/or the side in shadow. I think the best structure would be a large, submerged, mid-river boulder. These are hotspots for big summer bass. Of course, low light conditions usually fish better in summer. If you're fishing a river with a featureless, deep pool - I'd recommend moving to the center of the river (odds are that's where it's deepest) and fan cast a big, heavy streamer with a sinking line. Fish it very slow and deep. Try this in a couple areas and if it doesn't produce, move to the shallows and try to find structure or wait till dusk and throw big poppers.
Also, bait and spin guys can really be your friend. Try to find out what they're having success with in the deep water. Often it's cranks or heavy tube lures. You can also prospect the deep water with spin gear yourself. If you can get some "intel" from local spin fishing sharpies on depth and lure type you can usually figure out a FFing application that's similar.

Posted on: 2010/7/10 9:31


Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques

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Thanks for the response, Fish. That is all good and useful info. Your right about getting intel from our bait and spin friends. One of the things that clued me into fishing the deeper pools are friends who fish a lot of bait, especially minnows. They are killing them by just dead drifting under a bobber through the hole. I think they hold an advantage in the fact that the bait actually tastes good to the Bass. We can't imitate that; only the appearance and movement. But, that is one of the basic challenges we face as FFM. What are some of your favorite patterns for fishing for Bass?

Posted on: 2010/7/10 12:11


Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques
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How deep are your friends fishing their minnows under the bobber? Are they using a slip bobber? Are their baits getting eaten on the bottom or mid water column? What time of day/year? This is the sort of intel you'll want to know.
As for flies, you can't beat a Clouser Minnow for this sort of thing. Have some flies tied up in a "deep" fly box that include extra lead. Practice counting them down in clear water about 3' deep - of course keep in mind that as the fly drops further down you'll need to allow for fly line drag and the drop won't be as fast. Nevertheless, you can get a pretty good idea of how long it will take for your flies to get down to a certain depth with some practice. Streamers tied with rabbit strips sink well too and have great breathing action and imitate leeches and similar stuff. Don't rule out nymphs either. Summer smallies love nymphs. Try a tandem with a big rubber leg version up front and trail it with a trout sized Hare's Ear or something similar. Fish 'em right on the bottom.

Posted on: 2010/7/11 8:22


Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques

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2006/11/23 23:04
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For fishing deeper runs, I'd probably do just what you were doing in the riffles: fish buggers or crayfish patterns. Buggers are more versatile; since they imitate everything (and nothing) you can vary the retrieve until something triggers a take. I've found times when a dead drift works and others when they want it stripped faston an upward swing, etc. I sometimes do a tandem rig like Fishidiot suggested: either a nymph trailing a weighted bugger or two buggers: a size 6 or 8 with a 10 or 12, both weighted with dumbell eyes.

Clouser deep minnows seem to work well for everyone but me for smallies. I've caught just about everything else with them, heck I've taken more channel cats with them than smallies. They are also a killer pattern for chubs or fallfish. Clouser crippled minnows or swimming nymphs are a different story... a slow twitched crippled minnow will sometimes entice a "Bubba" smallie off the bottom of a run.

Posted on: 2010/7/16 21:25


Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques

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Zonkers can be effective as well. But Buggers really are a versatile fly and very deadly!

Posted on: 2010/7/16 22:17


Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques

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2010/6/30 14:13
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I've been fortunate enough to catch some really nice Delaware smallies, biggest was last years 20 incher! I took a friend's advice and put 2 BH buggers one black, one white about 8-10 inches apart. That day I landed the 20 incher and its worked well for bigger smallies since. Running and olive and a white works too. Change the lead fly around too. In faster deeper runs even put on a sink tip with this rig. The flies get down and you have two options, and two contrasting flies to get their attention.

I haven't used the rig as much on the Lehigh yet. Funny thing is I've always had the good success by dead-drifting buggers slowly in deep runs on the Lehigh.

Posted on: 2010/7/16 23:25


Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques

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I'm really having problems with this, but its become a new passion for me... Come the weekends, I can't wait to hit the Lehigh down my way and try for smallmouth, but I just can't seem to really seal the deal.

Just how gently do these things take the fly? Today I've found a place that seems to have a great population, the water seems almost text book like. The main river area is a foot to three feet, very rocky. There's some heavily shaded deeper runs along one bank, 3'-4'+ deep pools before a piece of rapids, and then lots of seamed water afterwards.

I spent a few hours working it hard, but seemed to only have a few noticable takes. I'm fishing wooly bugggers like big wets, down-and-across, then the swing, a hang and a stripped retrive.

Nothing. Well, almost nothing. Seems a few smaller ones try to hit it half-heartedly on the retrive, but that's it. I can only assume I'm getting takes on the drift, but I never seem to see it?

Do they really take the fly that lightly? Going from the TV shows, you always see bass smashing the spin guy's lures, but I don't seem to ever get that... Is there a better way to catch takes that I'm not seeing, or is it that I'm just not deep enough?

I'm not above a day full of 6-8" smallies, and I can see them there, but I just don't seem to be getting them... Any hints?

If/When Whheff reads this, I know we talked about this a time or two, if you want to pick up some weekend, let me know...

Posted on: 2010/7/19 0:20
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Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques
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Gfen,
Interesting. What you describe does indeed sound like prime smallie water. SMBs, like wild trout, seem to have "on/off" switches and some days they just go on tears and you catch dozens and then a few days later the same stretch seems devoid of fish. Also keep in mind that SMBs usually have lower populations than trout in similar habitat. You mention that there seems a lot of bass there. Some river sections, although they have ideal conditions for some reasons don't have many (or any) SMBs. To be sure, this is rare - most of the time if the habitat is there and SMBs are known to be in that waterway then you'll find 'em in predictable places such as the one you describe. Have you tried this section in the evening? Usually this time of year SMBs are easiest to catch once the sun sets, esp the smaller fish. It's not uncommon to have a fishless afternoon in high summer but once the sun gets down behind the trees the river just seems to come alive. Try poppers in the evening. River SMBs, esp smaller fish under a foot in length, feed a lot on subsurface insects. During the day try dead drifting some trout sized nymphs, about an inch long, in the deeper water under a strike indicator to help with the sometimes subtle strikes you seem to be getting. Come evening, switch to poppers.
Keep at it and good luck.

Posted on: 2010/7/19 8:30


Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques

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I spoke with a local who lives in that area, he assures me that its not only got fish, but its got some healthy sized bruisers in there.

I've got some more exploration to do, but I'm pretty satisfied I've found an easy to access, yet low pressured spot with good water. I was wondering about the feasability of nymphing ala trout through there, and I guess that's the way to go.

Means I should probably tie up some big stones or something, too. Not sure what the hopper I'm going to use is, although I suppose "hopper" might be apropos.

Would swinging a full cast of classic wets also be efficent, here?

Finally, just how big of a hook should I be using? I've noticed that looking up fishing, fly or other wise, for bass always leads you to largemouth stuff.

Posted on: 2010/7/19 9:35
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Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques
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Quote:

gfen wrote:
I'm really having problems with this, but its become a new passion for me... Come the weekends, I can't wait to hit the Lehigh down my way and try for smallmouth, but I just can't seem to really seal the deal.

Just how gently do these things take the fly? Today I've found a place that seems to have a great population, the water seems almost text book like. The main river area is a foot to three feet, very rocky. There's some heavily shaded deeper runs along one bank, 3'-4'+ deep pools before a piece of rapids, and then lots of seamed water afterwards.

I spent a few hours working it hard, but seemed to only have a few noticable takes. I'm fishing wooly bugggers like big wets, down-and-across, then the swing, a hang and a stripped retrive.

Nothing. Well, almost nothing. Seems a few smaller ones try to hit it half-heartedly on the retrive, but that's it. I can only assume I'm getting takes on the drift, but I never seem to see it?

Do they really take the fly that lightly? Going from the TV shows, you always see bass smashing the spin guy's lures, but I don't seem to ever get that... Is there a better way to catch takes that I'm not seeing, or is it that I'm just not deep enough?

I'm not above a day full of 6-8" smallies, and I can see them there, but I just don't seem to be getting them... Any hints?

If/When Whheff reads this, I know we talked about this a time or two, if you want to pick up some weekend, let me know...



Gary, when the smallies are "On" they rip the rod out of your hand! For some reason, the weather I guess, the smallies have not really been on yet for me and most of the reports I've read, for most anglers. When they're not chasing, dead drifting smaller flies may be needed. Hang in there.

I copied and pasted some SMB fishing tips I posted in another thread. Try this:


As far as where to fish in general, SMB usually prefer areas with some current, depth and plenty of rocks/boulders. Work these areas well, and concentrate your casts in and around the rocks and current breaks. Try all types of presentations: dead drifting, swinging, fast stripping and everything in between until you find what the fish are looking for at the time.

I usually move and search. When you find where they're hanging and the right presentation (a pattern), stick with it and hammer them! The pattern may change during the day so remain flexible and don't be afraid to experiment with different water types, presentations and flies to get back on them.

You don't need a whole lot of different patterns and flies to catch smallies. A couple of different flies in a couple of light and dark colors should do the job. You can't go wrong with a wooly bugger. Bass sometimes key in on colors or just even light or dark flies. Try some olive/black buggers (my & the fishes favorite) chartreuse, white, and maybe brown. Clousers work well at times with the classic color being chartreuse over white. A few medium sized poppers and maybe some sliders in light and dark colors should round out the selection.

If things are really tough, it would be a good idea to have some large nymphs in your box, stonefly patterns work well. Try dead drifting and swinging them if the smallies aren't chasing.

Posted on: 2010/7/19 9:53


Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques

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Let me start off by saying that I would never discount all of the above information, because it's all good.
I will tell you what I have been able to figure out this summer season on the section of the Yough River that my wife and I fish with our yaks. When we go out I rig a couple spinning rods, a baitcaster and a 6wt. fly rod and what we like to do is find a known hotspot that we have caught fish from before or even if it's a new unknown likely hotspot, we start throwing a culy tail jig on one rod and maybe a swimbait on another. If we start banging fish on say the ctj, I will tie on a fly that closely resembles the color, size and most importantly, the sink rate of that pattern. For some reason the usual faire has been a pumkinseed with brown flecks curly tail on an 1/8 oz. Jig head. The clousers and top water offerings have produced poorly for me this season and I am not a purist when it comes to fly fishing for bass, so I tie patterns that mimic the hardware that can catch fish on a regular basis and so far, it has served me well. I take a 60 degree keel hook and slide a medium size Jiggy head on with 5 turns of .25 lead jammed inside, tie on a curly tail (the fly shop kind) and palmer a cross cut olive rabbit strip for a body. Simple, yet so far, VERY Effective.

P.S. The Hairy Fodder is another smallmouth fly pattern worth playing around with as well because there are endless variations to match the hatch, as they say.


Jeff

Posted on: 2010/7/19 12:05


Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques

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From West Lawn, PA
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Great information!

Most of the SMB hits I have had this summer have been on a brown and orange Clouser on a size 10 streamer hook. The "traditional" chartreuse and white on a salt water size 6-8 hook has been disappointing so far this summer.

I know the rock bass are not a species sought out on fly rod, but I have caught many on the brown/orange in the Juniata as well. Red Eyes over 8" puts on a nice little fight for such a small fish.

Posted on: 2010/7/19 21:33


Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques

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2010/6/30 14:13
From Lehighton, PA
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On the Lehigh, I've had them take fairly softly (for a smallie) in the dead drift but its never been undetectable. However, smallies usually hit fast & hard. One thing about river smallies is that you will catch a lot more 10-12" bass than bass over 15". It's different than in a lake or reservoir. But a 10" river smallie is going to fight hard, very hard for a fish of that size. Like has been mentioned a few times, weight is often key. Add a splitshot to your clouser or bh bugger and get it down deep along the bottom.

Posted on: 2010/7/20 12:41
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Re: Smallmouth Bass Techniques

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I'm, honesty, happy with 10-12" fish.

I'm just waiting for a chance to get out there and put some of this to the test, but I'm not sure when the next chance will be.. This weekend should be decidedly cold water with NY reseveoir tailwaters on teh menu.

Posted on: 2010/7/20 16:06
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