Bass Fishing: California Smallmouth Bass

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California Smallmouth Bass Fishing

The beautiful state of California is known to produce some of the largest freshwater fish in the country. Currently, 

8 of the 10 biggest Largemouth bass caught have resided in The Golden State. However, there is one fish

that people don’t pay enough attention to. They have many nicknames: bronze back, small jaw, smallie,

but they’re better known as the smallmouth bass. Smallmouth range extends all throughout North America, from Texas to Manitoba, and Maine to California. These feisty cousins of the more famous Largemouth Bass make great target species for any angler!

Pound for pound, these fish are arguably the best fighters of any freshwater fish. While they typically don’t

get as big as their largemouth counterparts, ranging in size from 2-6 lbs with the world record being

11lbs; their draw is that they fight like you’ve hooked into a freight train.

Spring Bass Fishing

Smallmouth can be found down south; but they prefer the cooler waters of Northern California, where

the lakes and rivers are surrounded by redwoods and snow-capped mountains. Springtime is when they

start to become active. To target these fish, look for sandy gravely, shorelines and rocky points. Before fishing take a minute to look around to see if you can spot any live crawfish in the water. Once you do, search through your

tackle box and try to match any jig or soft plastic to it, the more similar they are the better. Smallmouth

key in on crawfish throughout the whole year, but spring is when they become their number one food


Summer Bass Fishing

Once the summer months roll around, you can start throwing dropshot or split shot soft plastics. Creature baits, crawfish, and shad representations work best. Lower your electric trolling motor and check your electronics to look for

rocks or brush on the bottom. Try bouncing your plastics off of these. Crankbaits in a crawfish pattern

are a great way to find where smallmouth are schooling. Once found, you can slow down and throw

your plastics.

Late Season Bass Fishing

Summer into fall you can continue throwing jigs, plastics, and crankbaits, but now topwater action starts

to heat up in the early morning and right before dusk. Spinner baits also work well and can be used

similarly to how you were using a crankbait as your searching lure. Now that we know to catch them, take a look below at some of the best Smallmouth waters in

California. Apologies to any residents living down south, you may have to drive a bit to find these places,

but they’ll be worth it.

Trinity Lake

Located in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Trinity Lake once held the California state record for

smallmouth at 9.1lbs. Depending on the time of year and how much rain this area of the state has

received, the water level could be low, but there is a lot of potential shoreline to fish.

Lake Shasta

Located directly east of Trintity Lake, Shasta sits right off Interstate 5, which makes for easy access to

days spent fishing, camping, or weekend trips. Since it is not too far from Trinity it would be easy to hit

up both of these spots in the same weekend. Two great smallmouth lakes right next to each create an

almost dream scenario for someone who wants to catch big fish.

Lake Almanor

This lake will allow you the opportunity to catch 4-6lb fish, but 2-3 pounders are more prevalent.

Almanor is not nearly pressured as much as the previously mentioned lakes. So, on a busy Saturday this

might be you best bet to go out and land some quality smallmouth.

Pardee Lake

Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Pardee Lake has over 40 miles of shoreline, which means

there is plenty of room for everyone. It also currently holds the state record for smallmouth at 9.81lbs,

which is only 2lbs away from the current record holder which was caught in Tennessee. The scuttlebutt

is that the world record lives somewhere in this lake. Which means many die hard smallmouth anglers

hit this spot hard. The lake Includes an impressively large 10-lane launch ramp, so there is always an

open spot to load or drop off a boat.

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