Michigan Smallmouth Bass Fishing

Gordon Lightfoot's ballad about the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald directed anglers to Lake Michigan, where "islands and bays are for sportsmen." But better guidance comes from Freshwater Fishing Hall of Famer Mark Fisher, a smallmouth bass fanatic who has fished throughout the northern tier of states:"If you wanted to plan your smallmouth trip of a lifetime and had a month to do it, you would start in Sturgeon Bay in May and move north to Escanaba Bay in June. There is no guarantee in fishing, but 50-fish days are common with fish over 6 pounds mixed in. Seven pounders are there." Here's the where and the how for Escanaba.

Shallow-water, sight-fishing opportunities abound on the rock and sand reefs south and west of Ford River and off Peninsula Point. "Cast to the small black spots on the reefs—they're smallies," advised Fisher. "If you see a solo fish, it probably won't bite. If you see two, expect 'fish on.' If you see three or more, get ready for a brawl. It can get silly! With two or more anglers, time your casts to keep them biting. When they quit biting, get on the trolling motor until you see more fish."

A variety of presentations will work on the reefs2 to 4 inch tubes, boot-tail grubs, waking baits like a Rapala Waking Minnow, and topwaters all catch fish. On the soft baits, any variation on green pumpkin is good. But the "must have" is 1/16 ounce brown or black marabou jigs. "You can't put a lure in the water without a smallie knowing it. The slow fall of the marabou jig allows the bass to find and kill the intruder," Fisher said.

If the fish aren't active on the reefs, fish the steep shorelines, docks, or the breaks into deep water around the reefs. "The wonderful thing about Escanaba is that simple fishing savvy catches fish. If it looks like it should hold a smallie, it probably does," explained the enthusiastic Hall of Famer. Jerkbaits, like a Rapala X Rap, will attract smallmouths from considerable depths and pull brown bass from under docks; deeper crankbaits like Rapala DT 10 and DT 16 are effective on the deeper ledges. And in the clear water, you can watch the fish hit.

Sage wisdom: play the weather, and use your trailer. Bay de Noc basically runs north-south. Land provides some shelter from north and northwest winds. There are some small bays where you can launch and stay out of the wind.

[navionics zoom="6" long="-87.0" lat="45.7"]

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You


Buzzbaits for Bass

Dan Johnson - February 02, 2015

To help you get a handle on it all, we offer the following rundown of top choices on the...


Rigging Soft Bass Baits Correctly

Matt Straw - May 15, 2018

Balance is the goal when tipping jigs with trailers.

Boats & Motors

Technical Notes: Calculating Prop Performance

In-Fisherman - May 01, 2019

In-Fisherman Here is a way to calculate prop performance with different props, a formula

See More Recommendations

Trending Stories


The Best Catfish Rigs

In-Fisherman - January 11, 2018

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...

Other Fish

Best Carp Baits Today

Dan Johnson - June 29, 2018

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...

Other Fish

Must-Have Striped Bass Tackle

Rick Bach - May 04, 2017

It was an August evening and I was wading the flats in Brewster, MA with my cousin. Here you...

See More Stories

More Adventures


South Dakota Jumbo Perch

Doug Stange - November 29, 2016

Jumbo perch tips for several South Dakota lakes.


Lake Lanier, Georgia

Dr. Hal Schramm - March 24, 2016

Lake Lanier, just a short drive north of Atlanta, offers great fishing for largemouth and...


Apalachicola River Florida

Dr. Hal Schramm - April 27, 2016

Big bass await on the Apalachicola River.

See More Adventures

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.