Spring makes two things grow, grass and bass. Forget about your lawn for a moment and focus on fish. It’s time to get out there on the river and start hammering those smallies. If you don’t know what it feels like to hook into a game little fighting fish like smallmouth bass, you need to find the time. Ever hear that old saying “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog?” This saying was made for smallmouth. If you have the fortune of hooking into a one-pound smallmouth, you will understand.
As spring’s warm weather begins to rise, smallmouth move through three different stages. Pre-spawn, spawn and post spawn. There are two primary things that dictate the way that smallmouth move through these phases, the moon and the temperature of the water. If you’re looking to pull big fish out of the river, early spring is the time. For best results, target mid-April through early May.
The first full moon in May, (which lands on Mother’s Day this year, so plan carefully), brings the big smallmouth bass out onto the spawning grounds. Don’t worry, you don’t have to upset Mom, the days leading up to and immediately after the full moon offer excellent spring smallmouth river fishing opportunities. Remember, just because the bass are out in the spawning beds doesn’t mean that they are in the spawning phase yet. They are just in transition. For success, target the afternoon fishing window, as bass in transition will likely gorge themselves all night and be somewhat lethargic during the early morning and midday hours. Look for water temperatures that range between 45 and 50 degrees.
When the big girls start sweeping their beds, they become some of the most aggressive creatures in the river. Use soft-bodied swimbait, and prepare for some pretty epic explosions. Look to find spawning river smallies in about 3-to-5 feet of water. Make sure that you start casting before you get over the bed, to surprise those fish.
Post Spawn Smallmouth
About two weeks after the spawn, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the big female smallmouths. The water temperature will likely be ranging from the high-50s to mid-60s. Those old girls pull a pretty decent disappearing act after doing their part in the lifecycle. Instead, you will be faced with a river full of male fish. This is top-water time, the water temperature will be a bit warmer and the fish will likely be closer to the bank. The good news, is that the fish will be feeding intensely and you will have nothing but nonstop action. The not-so-great news is that there will be so many of the smaller males that it may take a bit of finesse to get to the larger ones.
If you’re looking to get a youngster hooked on fishing (and you should), this is a good time to use live bait and let the kiddos cast away. If your aim is to stay on the big boys, try using a crank bait in deep water, to push past those pesky bait grabbers.