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


Dock Shooting Crappies

Matt Straw - July 03, 2018

Catch those weary crappie with this technique!


Spring Walleye Fishing Tackle Choices

Steve Ryan - October 19, 2017

Spring walleye fishing often means large numbers of fish concentrated in small areas.


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...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Berkley's New Terminal Tackle

OSG's Lynn Burkhead and Chad LaChance, host of World Fishing Network's Fishful Thinker television show, talk about Berkley's new innovative terminal tackle being introduced at ICAST 2019.

Sight Fishing Carp

The In-Fisherman staff slips into stealth mode sight tactics for barrel-shaped carp.

Tactical Changes for Smallmouths

Doug Stange deploys an one unique in-line spinnerbiat option for smallmouths.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

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...


Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 22, 2017

Check out this Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart, a simple and accurate...

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...

See More Stories

More Bass


Solving Postspawn Bass

Pete Robbins - June 01, 2018

When bass flood the banks in the spring to spawn, they can be easy pickings for skilled...


Locating August Smallmouth

Matt Straw - August 07, 2018

Like many experts we know, bass don't stop biting during the dog days.


Snapping a Tube Finds Aggressive Smallmouth

Joe Balog - August 06, 2018

It's no surprise that "snapping a tube" will find smallmouths.

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


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