Smallmouth Fishing Success?

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wayne gustaveson

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Lets start a discussion about smallmouth fishing success. I am a striper angler but will occasionally check for smallmouth to see if they are biting. For the past month it has been spotty. My thoughts are that the rapidly rising water that covered shoreline vegetation combined with the hot temperatures in June and July played a big part in disrupting the normal bass catching pattern.

Smallmouth are super abundant and often smaller in size than I would like. I started keeping all the little smallmouth (9-11 inches) I captured this year to reduce the competition among those smallmouth that remained in a few fishing spots. I wanted to check again next year to see if average size of bass caught in that fishing spot increased with time and less competition.

However the high water year gave bass and other fish lots of different options on locations, forage and habitat. I would like to have some real bass anglers chime in and explain if they have lost track of smallmouth during July or if they have a fishing method that still works well in these unusual conditions.

I reported in early June about going to an isolated rock slide in Last Chance, throwing 10 casts and hooking 8 bass. Now I only catch an occasional smallmouth while fishing in open water for stripers. These open water fish are about 2 pounds...nice bass obviously out eating shad. Where are the other bass hanging out now? What habitat? Why are they harder to catch in summer?

My guess is that smallmouth bass are 20-30 feet down enjoying rocky habitat that was submerged and has brush and forage fish in close proximity. This may be why pounding the shoreline lakewide is not as good as it has been in other years.

Thanks to all that share their bass wisdom with the rest of us.
 

Edward Gerdemann

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I haven't fished up there since June, however I am convinced most of the bigger bass are in deeper water especially in the warm summer months. If I were fishing up there right now I would concentrate more along the main channels than in the backs of the coves. I would do a lot of vertical fishing along the sides of reefs, either dropping straight down or making short parallel pitches along the dropoff sides watching the line as the lure drops. I would concentrate on that 20-30 foot level but might even fish deeper. I once caught a 2 1/2 pound smallmouth in 72 feet of water on a jigging spoon, so I know they will go that deep here at Powell. Remember, you likely need to fish deeper in really clear water than you do in stained or murky water.

Another area I would look at would be overhanging ledges. I've caught a lot of nice smallmouths in July and August at 10 to 15 feet in close proximity to such ledges. A bass will stay up in fairly shallow water in the hot weather if it can find overhanging shelter from the sun and predators. I would also look to fish shallower on overcast mornings. One of the biggest smallmouths I've caught on Lake Powell came just about 10 years ago off a gravel island opposite the mouth of Rock Creek. It was in late July but the sky was overcast and Cap'n Chuck Duggins and I caught a number of nice bass, as well as a couple walleyes in 12 to 15 feet near the ends of some big points. When the sun came out, however, that action stopped immediately and we had to look for ledges at 25 to 30 feet to catch fish.

Another idea would be to fish at night. I've never really night fished at Powell but have on some other Arizona lakes. I've found that once the sun goes down the bass move up and become very aggressive. I would suspect night fishing for smallmouth with heavy lead head soft plastic jigs (Hula Grubs) would be excellent if you are in the right place. You might catch the smallie of your life doing that. :)

Ed Gerdemann
 

Dungee Fishing

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Dead of summer is always usually tough, but we were sure at a loss with the situation. Even topwater during supreme prime hours (dawn and dusk) were only producing a few Largemouth a couple weekends ago. Topwater even during the sweltering heat of summer always produced many bass in previous summers. Leads me to believe the high water year has a much bigger impact than I'd previously considered for whatever reason. I know they're there and didn't just disappear.
 

Nomofish

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A lot of anglers don't know how to fish deep in the summer and winter. Some of the better fish can be caught on jigs, creature baits and plastics in 20-60' of water. Stop and think about it. Look at a 20' boat, then look at a 40' boat. It isn't that deep when you think about it. My magic number seems to be around 35'. I have caught lots of bass at that depth and even deeper in the summertime.
Just go to a heavier jig-head or sinker and watch your line as it is falling.
Years ago a friend showed me how to fish a spinner-bait in deep water. Throw it out and let it fall till it hits bottom (Sometimes it won't hit bottom!) watch the line for a twitch. Once it hits bottom, either start it back fast and then slow-roll it to the boat. Another way is to lift and fall as you bring it back. Try new techniques.
 

Chet Garling

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I too need to try more deep fishing for green bass, tried one of Pete's heavy jigs just haven't had much success with it.
 

Edward Gerdemann

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A lot of anglers don't know how to fish deep in the summer and winter. Some of the better fish can be caught on jigs, creature baits and plastics in 20-60' of water. Stop and think about it. Look at a 20' boat, then look at a 40' boat. It isn't that deep when you think about it. My magic number seems to be around 35'. I have caught lots of bass at that depth and even deeper in the summertime.
Just go to a heavier jig-head or sinker and watch your line as it is falling.
Years ago a friend showed me how to fish a spinner-bait in deep water. Throw it out and let it fall till it hits bottom (Sometimes it won't hit bottom!) watch the line for a twitch. Once it hits bottom, either start it back fast and then slow-roll it to the boat. Another way is to lift and fall as you bring it back. Try new techniques.

I totally agree with that. The problem is smallmouth fishing has been so incredibly good at Lake Powell in relatively shallow water over the past two or three years that a lot of us have forgotten that in years before we had to get down to that 30-foot level and below to be successful in the hottest weather. Fishing with your "back to the bank" requires a lot of discipline especially when you haven't done it for a while.

One thing I failed to mention, and it doesn't come up when talking bass fishing, is trolling. I'd look into trolling parallel along some of the big rockslides with a crank bait like a large Shad Rap or something else that runs 18-25 deep on a flat line troll. Let out 50-65 yards of line to get the lure to its maximum depth. A bass will come up out of 35-45 feet of water to hit a crank bait running at 18-20 feet. My dad had great success doing this on Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas, a lake that has some similarities to Powell. I have no doubt it would work here. I just don't like trolling which is why I haven't tried it much.

In addition to the large Shad Raps, I'd also recommend the Fat Free Shad as it will dive a bit deeper on a troll than some of the other baits. If any of you have any of the old Poe's Series 300 and 400 lures (no longer manufactured), I'd recommend trying those as well. I got more strikes on those lures than any crank baits I've ever fished. The only problem with them is they are very heavy for their compact size and have small hooks which makes it easy for jumping fish to throw them. Nevertheless, they are very effective.

In addition to trolling along the rockslides, try trolling the ends of the points and along the sides of reefs - anywhere smallies are likely to be. The key is letting out 50-65 yards of line. Not only will this allow the lure to run its deepest, it will also get it back far enough from the boat that the fish won't relate it to the boat - a very important consideration. In addition to smallies, expect to catch lots of stripers and some walleyes doing this. This is something I might have to consider as well. :)

Ed Gerdemann
 

broski

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We had great success our last trip a couple weeks ago with smallies...nothing huge in size, but plenty abundant in quantity caught...it was for the most part as some have suggested, DEEPER than I have ever caught them.... scree (rock) piles, and deep off overhangs... most hookups were cast shallow from the boat with 1/4 to 1/2 BLACK jigheads, and my go-to Yammamoto 5" DT Hula grub in Green/Watermelon with red flake, then slowly worked to depth... they always had to drop 10-15' minimum, and frequently well into the 25-30' depths... the bites are more like a whole bunch of really strong nibbles, and the strangest thing was that they would decimate the baits until the tails were gone, and wouldn't touch it otherwise.

Ballast Boy fished the same exact color pattern from Yammamoto in both Flappin' Hawg and Kreature, but had far less overall success than the DT Hula Grubs...

Take this with a grain of salt now, because it's been two weeks, and from other's reports, the water has only gotten hotter!

-broski
 

Squirrel

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When I use the term pounding the shorelines, it means I'm casting towards the shoreline. I like steep shorelines and normally work my bait from shallow until I'm under the boat if need be. This past trip, I was fishing 25'-30' deep and jut couldn't get into a smallmouth bite. But then there's next trip.

Dan, I like your attitude. I won't go back to the lake until mid Sept. due to the heat. Sq
 

birdsnest

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Goin
next wed. and thursday. Love deep hopping over rocks, under ledges, trolling{ I add weight to my jighead to get where I want.} I can't wait. Probably will start with my favorite, chartuese and just keep going through the colors. It's smallie time.
 

PowellBride

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We fished the San Juan in late June and again the past 10 days, just got home. Fish were not as abundant as our Sept. trips, but for as hot as it was.....we thought SMB activity was pretty good. Catching a lot of blackies this year for some reason, and most of the SMB we caught were 8"-15". Mostly catching them in Rocky areas between 20'-30' feet as Wayne suggested. We were mostly using tube lures.

PS - one of the largest and longest lasting Boils I've ever seen surfaced behind the houseboat in our camping spot just outside of Cha. We were in a huge cove and the stripers were everywhere for 20-30 minutes. Saw a repeat boil again the next morning in the main channel heading away from us. Overall we spotted a least a boil a day from Cha to the start of the Big Bend
 
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