By my own admission, I am not a smallmouth guy. If I have to choose between green fish and brown fish, green gets the nod. Because of that preference I rarely target smallmouth when I’m tournament fishing. Most of the year you have to fish deep to catch them, using spinning gear with light line and small finesse baits. And that type of fishing doesn’t fit my power-fishing style. But in the Spring smallmouth move to shallower water to spawn, making them susceptible to largemouth specific techniques.
On Saturday I fished an NBAA tournament on Alum Creek with my parnter Marshall Yarnell. Although traditionally an awesome largemouth fishery, the largemouth have been difficult to locate at Alum Creek over the last three years. So on Friday, Marshall went pre-fishing with a mission of locating spawning smallmouth. According to most bass fishing experts, the smallmouth spawn begins once water temperatures reach 55 degrees. The females move to shallow water to lay their eggs. They prefer rocky, hard-bottomed flats near deep water on the main lake. In Ohio, the smallmouth spawn usually begins in late April and runs through the end of May.
I’ve nicknamed Marshall “Bird Dog” for his ability to locate quality fish prior to tournaments. The Bird Dog had managed to find some textbook smallmouth spawning flats while pre-fishing, and we began the tournament fishing a shallow rock ridge that was surrouned by deeper water. During the next 8 hours we rotated through several similar areas. We spent the entire tournament picking these flats apart, searching for the key areas that the smallmouth were using to spawn. And the beauty of it was that we employed the largemouth techniques that we are comfortable with. Fish were caught on jigs, spinnerbaits, Carolina rigs and worms. One area in particular pumped out the quality fish pictured below. A 4.19lber (which was big bass for the tournament) and a fat 2lber.
We were fortunate enough to edge out a 1st place finish by about 6 ounces. Our total weight was 10.40 lbs, and consisted of four smallmouth and one largemouth. Although this shallow pattern will soon disappear when the smallmouth return to their deep water homes, it is definitely a pattern that can be duplicated in any Ohio reservoir where smallmouth reside.
On a final note, I want to thank Ky Reed, Don Rinehart and the other directors of the NBAA Central Ohio Division. Those guys put on a top-notch tournament. Later this week I will be fishing a Tuesday night tournament on Griggs Reservoir (weather permitting), a Thursday night tournament on Alum Creek, and a Saturday Open tournament on O’Shaughnessy Reservoir. Stay tuned for fishing reports on all three.