Spoons For Smallmouth Bass

Spoons For Smallmouth Bass

Even though I have seen it so often over so many years, I still find it remarkable that seemingly small things can be so critical in finally getting fish to bite. One moment there are no fish (for all practical purposes), the next, with just a lure tweak here, a lure change there, or a modest technique modification like a slight change in retrieve, the fish are all over you—they're everywhere and they're big to boot. It's calculated magic—but, as we all know, until it falls into place, it's a puzzle.

I recently mentioned experimenting for two years with casting spoons for smallmouth bass, before finally getting it right, during at least one yearly period. Now it remains for me (and perhaps you) to try it during seasons besides fall. I'm thinking the method probably works at times all summer, too, when smallmouths are holding in water about 8 to 30 feet deep.

I've mostly been using the 5/8-ounce Luhr-Jensen Tony Spoon, which I call a paranormal smallmouth spoon because it looks more like a traditional option for pike. Slab spoon and vertical jigging this isn't. I'm casting and retrieving, which calls for a bit of a different spoon design.

Coupled with a 10- or 14-pound fused line and a medium-action 7-foot casting or spinning outfit I can make gigantic casts, so this is a method that covers a lot of water. Let the spoon drop on a semi-slack line. Once it hits bottom, the line goes slack and you give the rod tip a sharp upward lift of about 3 feet, then let the spoon fall again on a semi-slack line back to the bottom, following it with your rod tip and reeling as it drops.


This gives the spoon an intense wobble-flash action on the upswing, and an erratic knuckle-ball-like action on the fall, as you can't control exactly how the spoon moves as it drops back. The retrieve is a constant rip-fall, rip-fall, with the angler watching line on the drop back for a telltale tic. Other times the fish is just there on the next up-stroke and you don't see or feel your line move.


You catch a lot of pike, walleyes, and largemouths fishing spoons like this too. With those fish, you often see or feel a tic in the line as they take, because much of the time they're hitting the spoon on the drop. Smaller smallmouths do that a lot too. And that was the trouble with my experimentation. I was catching decent smallmouths, but never anything exceptional.


Spoons For Smallmouth Bass

The transformation came in reconsidering the nature of the smallmouth and in changing the retrieve process. As we have long taught, understanding the nature of the fish species being pursued is fundamental to finding and catching fish, but the presentation process—finding just the right combination of rod, reel, and line, and then just the right lure for the situation, working it in just the right way, is what finally puts fish in the boat or on the bank.

The smallmouth is one of the most discriminating and discerning and intelligent of all our fish—and, perhaps as a matter of having such street smarts, it's also perhaps the single most curious fish in freshwater. Those characteristics intensify in older, often larger smallmouths. They've been around a long time. As I said: street smarts.


Where smallmouths are concerned, retrieves often need to be just erratic enough to be highly curious—yet still just barely catchable. Said another way: The retrieve shouldn't be so predictable that it's identifiable. Curious. Not quite identifiable—yet at the same time at some point barely catchable.

So instead of slowing down in that cold-water situation I did the opposite. As soon as the spoon touched down, I ripped it back up as hard as I could. I concentrated entirely on ripping the spoon up again within a nanosecond of it touching down, time after time after time, all the way through the retrieve until it was about 50 feet from the boat, which is about when the retrieve becomes too vertical to work well.

Time after time the fish were just there on the up-rip. And big fish, not just run of the mill fish, although smaller fish were biting too. So it was the retrieve coupled with the nature of the fish that got them going. The fish were chasing, chasing, chasing, never quite able to get a handle on what the thing was, until finally—finally—they took a shot at pinning the thing on the bottom. The key was driving them crazy with the retrieve until they couldn't stand it. I don't know how far some of the fish might follow before they take a crack at the spoon. After several days on the water I could at times begin to tell I'd soon get hit, because I could feel fish swimming by and missing—or just touching the line as they swam by, trying to get a handle on what this thing was.


This is part of what each In-Fisherman issue is about—lessons in the process I just outlined. Many of the strategies we write about step far beyond current tradition. Other times, the strategies are but a slight modification of current trends—or an attempt to capture a trend as it unfolds. Whatever it takes. It's calculated magic.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

This recipe for Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad is heart healthy, paleo- and gluten-free diet friendly. Fish Recipes

Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad Recipe

This recipe for Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad is heart healthy, paleo- and gluten-free...

Across the Walleye Belt, early spring is prime time to tap some of the year's best bites. Walleye

Spring is Prime Time for River Walleyes

Dan Johnson - February 22, 2018

Across the Walleye Belt, early spring is prime time to tap some of the year's best bites.

Made from 100% recycled fishing nets, the Costa Baffin's are a must-have for any serious angler. Accessories

Costa Baffin Sunglasses Review

Chris Schneider - April 26, 2019

Made from 100% recycled fishing nets, the Costa Baffin's are a must-have for any serious...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Spawntime World Class Crappies

Spawntime World Class Crappies

Doug Stange and Brandon Fulgham illustrate spawntime crappie patterns on one of North America's most famous fisheries.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

Mustad

Mustad's New Tungsten Weights

Long known as one of the world's premiere hook makers, Mustad's Reid McKinstry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that the company is now one of the leaders in making tungsten terminal tackle products for anglers.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a powerplant that best fits your personal needs and preferences. Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...

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

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is simply a matter of putting a good bait in the right in front of them. Catfish

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...

See More Stories

More Bass

Never give up on surface action until winter rips the topwater rod from your cold, blue fingers. Bass

Fall Smallmouths: The Topwater Dossier

Matt Straw - November 11, 2019

Never give up on surface action until winter rips the topwater rod from your cold, blue...

Bass rigs can be simple or complex, but most have evolved to include multiple variations. Bass

Bass Rigs You Need to Be Fishing

Matt Straw - September 30, 2019

Bass rigs can be simple or complex, but most have evolved to include multiple variations.

Fishing in the current and staying alert is the name of the game when it comes to smallmouth fishing in a kayak. Bass

Smallmouth Fishing in a Kayak

Matt Straw

Fishing in the current and staying alert is the name of the game when it comes to smallmouth...

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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