Inside The WildSide - By Chip Leer

Top 2 Tactics for Smallmouth Bass Today

It’s early summer and I love catching smallmouth bass. To keep things simple, I’m going to limit myself to just two rods and two presentations. What would you take? I’d bring a swimbait and a jerkbait, and here’s where, when and how I’d fish them.

Big flats adjacent to deeper water are the place to be right now. Firm-bottom flats 3 to 7 feet deep, with a mix of materials including sand, gravel, boulders and smaller rocks are the best of the best.

Smallmouths move onto these flats to feed after they abandon deep wintering grounds. Many smallies also spawn here and will continue to utilize the area throughout summer when conditions are right, such as at dusk or dawn, and on windy days. So if you find a hotspot now, chances are good it will produce fish again and again.

When scouting potential flats, pay attention to the wind. A warm, gentle breeze blowing in helps warm the water and is a big plus in the spring. Conversely, an outgoing wind can lower the water temperature and drive bass into deeper water.

LIVETARGET 4-inch Trout Swimbaits

To find bass fast, fancast soft-bodied swimbaits like LIVETARGET’s 4-inch Trout Swimbait on top of the flat. Either drift or use your trolling motor while making long casts and slow, steady retrieves—letting the swimbait’s tail provide the majority of the action.

LIVETARET Emerald Shiner and Rainbow Smelt Jerkbaits

Suspending jerkbaits excel for fishing the sides of the flat and over nearby deeper water. The 2¾-inch RS70S LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt Jerkbait is a personal favorite. Fish it with a jerk-pause cadence, experimenting with the number of jerks and duration of pauses. Don’t be afraid to pause the bait 10 to 15 seconds or more if bass are lethargic or you need to give deep fish time to come up and eat.

Clear or natural tones in lure color that mimic the lake’s forage base are always great choices, but other natural colors can be killers in turbid water or cloudy conditions.  I like to use more silver/blacks in clear water and go to pearl/flesh or Pear/Bright Green shades in turbid water.

Muse Gold spinning rod

As for the two rods, I recommend a 6'9", medium action Muse Gold spinning rod spooled with superbraid mainline and fluorocarbon leader for jerkbaits. A 7’0” medium-action casting rod with low-stretch, 12-pound monofilament or flurocarbon is ideal for swimbaits because the rod loads nicely when a bass takes the bait.

Armed with these two presentations, you can catch hard-fighting smallmouths!

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Based in Walker, Minnesota, noted fishing authority and outdoor communicator Chip Leer operates Fishing the WildSide, an outdoor sports marketing and communications company. For more information look to