As any bass angler can tell you, smallmouth are more than just a bit different than largemouth, especially when it comes to behavior. Like largemouth bass, smallmouth activity goes through seasonal changes throughout the year, and today we’ll start a series that explores that. Keep reading to learn a bit about smallmouth habits during the prespawn, as well as a few tactics you can use to catch big numbers during that time.
The prespawn season usually begins near the end of winter, when the first consistently warm weather starts, and lasts until the water temperature climbs into the mid 50’s. Smallmouth fishing tends to be better in the early spring than largemouth fishing, since smallmouth tend to be more active in cold water. For this reason, you can begin looking for them when the water temperature is in the mid 40’s.
To find smallmouth during the prespawn, fish the first deep water associated with a large gravel or mud flat. The fish may be 20 or 30 feet deep or more on drop-offs like these, waiting for the temperature to rise slightly so they can move up and spawn. When the water temperature hits the mid 50’s, the biggest smallmouth will start to move into shallow flats to spawn. Look for flats that have a very low taper and extend a long way out into the lake.
Aside from flats with a gradual descent, small, almost unnoticeable points are great places to seek out smallmouth, especially in clear water that’s between 8 and 15 feet. These points, especially the ones that shoot out from small mud or gravel bays, will act as holding areas for both male and female bass on spring days when the water temp is creeping towards 50 degrees.
To catch smallmouth, you’ll want to use jigs and grubs in the 1/8 to ¼ oz range, especially in the gravel and mud bays. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits in crawfish patterns are a great way to go, as well. Also, on cold or overcast days, you can try a topwater bait, such as a floating Rapala, in the shallow waters.
Considered one of the hardest fighting fish, pound for pound, in freshwater, smallmouth bass change their behavior to coincide with the changes in seasons just like every other fish. Knowing how they tend to act during a given time of year will help you locate and catch them more efficiently, and the prespawn is just the beginning. Be sure to come back for tips on how to catch them during the spawn.