Essential Outdoor Skill: Fire Up Smallmouths

Photo by Eric Engbretson

There's a good reason for the red tint in a smallmouth's eye: They're mean. All of them. There are times, however, when smallmouths aren't quite as nasty as we would like them to be--when they must be provoked to strike. And if you get one smallmouth to bite, the odds are high that the rest will follow suit.

For fish in or near grass, a big tube with plenty of flake for flash rigged on a ½- to ¾-ounce jighead is ideal. Toss the tube near likely holding cover and let it drop to the bottom. Next, hold your rod tip near the water surface and then sharply snap the rod skyward. Snap it hard. Every time the tube settles back on the bottom, snap it again. Don't be afraid to yank the tube out of grass altogether. The intent is to trigger an aggressive predatory response. The strike will usually come just as you jerk the bait off the bottom.

In rocky cover, the key is to use a crankbait that will consistently bang the bottom and stand up to abuse. If the rocks are located in, say, 8 feet of water, use a bait designed to run 10 to 12 feet deep. Retrieve the bait fast and crash it off as many rocks as you can hit. The noise, deflection, and erratic action will often trigger a fish to bite.