By: Tim Allard
Blend power and finesse tactics to boat more bronzebacks
Smallmouths are a curious breed. When riled up, their inquisitiveness can shift quickly to aggression. Yet, if subdued, getting them to bite is challenging. Seeing a bass scrutinizing a lure is frustrating, but it¹s also an opportunity. The trick is to retrieve the unproductive bait and cast out a new offering before the fish moves. This rapid changeup is the secret to getting a finicky bronzeback to strike.
Sticking with Search Baits
Fast-moving lures are good first presentations when trying to locate smallmouths. Jerkbaits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, and topwaters are all options. Active bass readily hit these offerings. Less turned-on fish are apt to follow a lure out of curiosity, but be less inclined to snap it up. In these instances, the search bait does half the work by drawing fish into view, giving you a second chance to tempt them to strike. The next step is changing to a finesse offering to trigger a bite and close the deal.
A Tactical About-Face
The follow-up bait should loiter in a fish¹s strike zone, contrasting a search bait¹s fast commotion. There are plenty of players available for the second-chance roster. Variety is good, as smallmouths can be particular, and cycling through lures to find a specific bait to stimulate a hit is commonplace.
Colour can be crucial. Natural and muted hues are better than loud patterns. Scent can also makes a big difference, so lather baits with lots of sauce. Use 2- to 4-inch soft baits, as downsizing is a potent ploy for pernickety smallmouths. Tubes, grubs, and finesse worms do well on 1/8-ounce jigs. They also shine on a drop-shot rig, as do thin creature baits and leeches. Wacky-rigged stickbaits (i.e., Senkos) are another second-stringer choice.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
The chance to catch a following smallmouth is a fleeting moment. Look away and the fish can vanish or be difficult to detect among its watery surroundings. For this reason, keep a follow-up bait rigged on a rod that rests beside your left foot on the deck. This allows you to put down the rod with the search bait, pick up the other stick, and make a cast all the while keeping your eyes fixed on the fish.
Cast the bait ahead of the bass and aim for a subtle and splashless entry. Keep movement to a minimum, avoiding unnecessary follow-through, or the fish might spook. Don¹t despair if a bass darts off before you present the new offering. A cast in the direction of its travel can still translate into a hook-up.
A well-placed cast and a subtle soft bait is often all it takes to fool an active bass to bite. Neutral-mood fish are more selective. Be patient. Use plenty of pauses and small movements to coax the fish to slurp in the morsel. Avoid flogging the water with follow-up casts, as this can turn off smallmouths and cause them to leave the area.
Light tackle is necessary to properly present a compact lure with minimal effort, which equates to a more reserved cast and less of a chance at startling a smallmouth. Light to medium-light spinning rods are best for tossing tiny baits. A 7-foot model will help absorb the stress of the fight along the entire blank and deliver more leverage, compared to a shorter stick.
Keep the drag loose. Finessing bronzebacks is less about brawn and more about strategic manoeuvres. Start with 6-pound fluorocarbon or monofilament. Dropping to 4 pound is a winning formula for fussy fish in clear water. When searching for smallmouths, always have a finesse bait rigged and ready to present to a bass that snubs a fast-moving search lure. This switch-up strategy gives you a second chance to convert lookers into chewers. Give it a try this season and watch your overall catch rates soar.