Hooking up with super-sized early season smallmouth bass is huge fun and there is nothing like it.
Smallies are built for fun; they bulldog, pull and test your equipment to the max, and jump for all their worth which can be extremely exciting. Minnesota has some terrific opportunities and includes all of its rivers as well as lakes like Mille Lacs and Minnetonka and many, many more.
It seems they are expanding their range and showing up where they have never been before, which might indicate that some illegal transferring of fish may be taking place, but nonetheless there is some blue-ribbon bass fishing to be had right now.
Professional angler John Janousek of Nisswa has a special place in his heart for smallmouth bass and has fished for them across the country and into Canada. He shared some of what he has learned in pursuit.
“Shallow flats are where it’s at, but not just any flat will do,” he said. “Rocks are a big key as well as plenty of sand. A nice shallow, sandy flat interspersed with patches of rocks can be a real magnet and is definitely something to look for. How shallow depends on a number of things with the most important factor being water clarity. In super clear water, flats in the 8- to 10-foot range might be the ticket. Compare all of that to darker bodies where I’ve run into fish in less than 2 feet of water. The thing is you don’t always know, but the “clear means deep, and dark means shallow” rule is a good rule of thumb. When I’m looking for fish, I’ll cruise adjacent to a flat and use the side imaging (SI) on my Humminbird 1198 to scan and find subtle changes in bottom content and SI will actually show the patches of rock in an otherwise sandy bottom.”
Once you’ve found an area to have a go at, there’s some basic presentations (including one that has been under wraps) that should help you put a few in the boat.
“When I’m looking for fish, I like to use a plastic swim bait like Northland Tackle’s Rock-R-Minnow,” Janousek said on presentation. “You can cast it and slowly swim it in or let it drag behind the boat as you cruise along with the electric trolling motor. Top water lures are another great option, and no matter what you’ve heard, there is no wrong time to use them. One of the hottest techniques for finding and catching fish is casting or dragging a hair jig like Northland Tackle’s Bug-A-Boo in a size one-sixteenth-ounce or smaller.
“It’s been kept quiet for a long time, but the hair jig has proven to be absolutely deadly on smallmouth bass wherever they swim, and the word is finally getting out. It’s a super finesse technique that always works, period. When a smallie does take the bait, they’re usually not shy and can definitely feel the thump when they snap it up. When they do, set hook, because they’ve got it, no question.”
See you on the water.
Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.