As the red mercury in the thermometer starts to creep higher and higher, you’ll notice that many of the lakes and rivers have begun to clear out. Fishermen have begun to put their gear back into storage as they await the bright colors and cooler temperatures of autumn. But this isn’t you. You’re gonzo. You’re ready to brave the elements to catch fish, and no temperature gauge is going to deter you. And as I sit here writing this in the AC, I applaud you. However, you should know that smallmouth patterns are different this time of the year. And below we’re going to discuss how you can still catch them in the dog days of summer.
River Fishing Smallmouth
With the water temperature increasing, you’ll find more and more fish making their way to deeper and cooler water. This is true during the heat of the middle of the day, but the early morning and dusk bite is still going to be shallow. This is the perfect time to throw topwater. Look for any current breaks around structure that would be good ambush points for smallmouth. Buzzbaits, poppers, and the ever-popular whopper plopper are all great options for early morning topwater.
After the early morning bite starts to taper off, fish will be dormant for a while. However, because the warmer waters have increased the bass’s metabolism, they’ll need to eat again a few hours later. In turn this means that the bite turns back on again by mid-day to early afternoon.
Because fish won’t be as aggressive, you’ll need to slow down your presentation to entice a strike. Rig up a drop shot with a senko or yum dinger. These are deadly effective for smallmouth and the perfect lure for that middle of the day lull. Keep the worm around 5” up from the weight and allow it to drift naturally with the current past deep structure, drop offs, and tail outs.
Lake Fishing Smallmouth
Similar to river fishing, smallmouth will be found up shallow during the low light and low temperatures of the morning and evening. Again, this is a great time to throw a topwater or a shallow running lure such as a jerkbait or a crankbait. Look for spots with rocks in 6-10 feet of water during this time. Smallmouth like to hold on these areas to ambush their prey.
In the afternoon you should be looking in deeper water. Typically, around 15-25 feet deep. Throw a Carolina rig, or a wacky rigged senko, near rocks or weedy edges. If the wind is strong you may need to throw more moving lures such as a deep diving crankbait or jerkbait. If your lake has a lot of submerged timber you can throw those same lures and knock them off of the wood to entice a strike.
If you’re not finding anything shallow or mid-range then the fish could be deeper. This could be due to a number of reasons, but fishing pressure can definitely play a role. Keep a close eye on your sonar and start looking for humps or steep drop offs in the 25-35-foot range. Once you’ve found a spot, allow your trolling motor to keep you in a holding pattern and begin bouncing a jig, tube, or dropshot off the bottom to try and get a strike.