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Dog Days of Summer Bronzebacks:
A look at lures and techniques to catch smallies during the middle of summer
By Glenn Walker


Many anglers think that once July and August roll around that the only bassin’ action taking place is for largemouth in the weeds.  But in my eyes, some of the most exciting bass fishing an angler can do during these hot days is go chasing after some smallmouth.

To effectively chase these brown fish as many anglers refer to them as, I am going to talk about five lures that will help you catch these fish and also look at key situations that they should be used.

Topwater plugs not only allow you to mimic baitfish on the surface, but they also put you in the position to have some fun when a behemoth smallie crashes the surface to attack your plug.  My two favorite lures in this category are both poppers.  The first being a Chug Bug and the other being a Pop-R.  Both work very well and it is up to you to determine which one you like the best and in most cases the fish will tell you which one they want.  A key piece to my equipment is the new Quantum Gerald Swindle signature series rod (PTC664FGS).  This rod is 6’6” but is specifically designed for these styles of baits and allows me to get the most action out of them.  I also want to point out, that using a monofilament line here is important because fluorocarbon lines sink, which will hinder the action of your bait.

A key situation in which topwater plugs shine is when smallmouth are feeding on baitfish.  They could be feeding on a point, sandbar or rock pile.  Regardless if the cover is wood, rock, or weeds a smallmouth won’t pass up a topwater plug when they are feeding.  Depending on how active they are when feeding, will dictate how much action to put into your plug.  A pop and stop retrieve can be used or a very aggressive constant chugging can be very successful.  Having a dressed treble hook at the rear of your bait will help attract these fish even more.  Many baits come with a dressed treble, but if not Eagle Claw has come out with a very sharp dressed treble hook that will add color and enticement to any bait you have. 

Crankbaits are a great lure because you can cover a lot of water very quickly and you can effectively mimic several things that a smallmouth may be feeding on, they are shad or crawdads.  Crankbaits come in a wide variety of colors that resemble these tasty morsels that smallmouth love to feed on.  Another color crankbait that smallmouth like is one that has chartreuse in it.  This may resemble a panfish or not, but a hungry smallmouth doesn’t like to see a chartreuse lure go by his face.  Some top crankbait brands to look at are, Bandit, Rapala and Bomber, they are all good and will work for you.

Covering a shoreline, weedline or point is very easy to do with a crankbait.  These are also good choices in the same areas you were fishing for when the smallies were feeding, but have stopped at the moment.  A crankbait fished through an inactive school of smallmouth may help turn those fish back on to feeding.

A Carolina-Rig is something that some anglers won’t touch with a ten foot pole, while others rely on it day in and day out.  I began to experiment with this technique late last summer and had good success with it.  The important thing to remember is to use the lightest weight you can get by with to maintain bottom contact and that your leader length depends greatly on the water clarity.  Since I fish the Mississippi River mostly a 14 to 18 inch Seaguar fluorocarbon leader with a 3/8 ounce brass weight is what I use for the most part.  What you use for a plastic on your C-rig is up to you, a Gambler Baby Bacon Rind works well for me the majority of the summer, as do Flukes and lizards.  Experimenting with each bait until the fish tell you what they are keying in on is key.

Like the two other lures mentioned about the C-rig allows you cover water quickly, which is key for summer smallmouth fishing because they do move frequently depending on baitfish and current.  Dragging this rig over sand bars, rock humps and along a break line all work very well and can put some very nice fish in your boat.

Tubes are a great go to bait when fishing for smallmouth.  As we have all seen from Lake Erie that tubes can catch some huge smallies, just by simply dragging them across rock piles and off-shore humps.  They also work well when drug along weedlines or when pitched to visible rip-rap or wingdams on a river.  Every company that makes plastic baits makes a tube and every angler has their preference on size and color.  If you are just starting out fishing tubes, a 4 inch tube is a good standard.  Natural colors that represent crawfish work well, but don’t be afraid to try some bright colors if the water is stained or natural colors if the water is clear. 

Weightless Plastics have become extremely popular not just on the tournament scene, but for recreational anglers as well over the past five years.  Just by simply casting out these plastic baits and allowing them to slowly sink, just tempts a smallmouth into biting.  My two favorite baits and ways to fish them are a Gambler Ace wacky rigged and then a Fluke fished very slowly.  An Ace wacky rigged on a 1/0 Eagle Claw extra wide gap hook is what I use when casting to stubborn smallmouth.  This lure is a very natural presentation that works well when the fish are holding tight to cover or are suspended. 

The same goes for a Fluke, a 4/0 Eagle Claw extra wide gap hook will increase your hook up ratio greatly.  Casting this weightless Texas-rigged bait to points, weedlines or any areas where smallies are feeding is good.  I have caught some very nice bass in mid-August just by letting my Fluke slowly sink down and then ever so easy twitching it back to the boat.

With these five baits and knowing where to use them, you to can go take advantage of some phenomenal Dog Days of summer smallmouth fishing!!