Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Downsizing for fun and profit. Are Smallmouth eating small food?

                                    (Sammy 65 is the small one)

Spooky fish, small baitfish, fewer big fish than in the past. I hate to say it, this year I'm going to throw smaller baits. Painful admission. With stream bass fishing, the power of observation should win over the power of stubborness every time IMHO.

I'm not too pleased with fishing results the last 9-10 months. Lots of work and lots of learning should mean better results? There have been successes, but they don't improve upon past success. Notably, numbers continue to drop.

The larger baitfish on many smaller Indiana flows seem to be in hiding. Throwing the 7/32 oz Sammy 65 the other day, watching the Smallmouth destroy it for an hour. The bait clearly closer matches the size of the minnow hatch I've been seeing the last two years. Plus, it lands so silent, it attracts attention versus spooking fish.

Last year a 3" fluke was key for better numbers days. 5" got ignored. I'm going to throw small baits and see what the results are until fish populations start to recover. That doesn't mean I won't pull out the old standbys and try them each time out.

3" flukes, 3" tubes, 2" 1/8 oz chatterbaits, Sammy 65, maybe some tiny torpedo action. Should be a cool experiment. I fully believe bigger baits are a better option, given a food supply that compares. That's not what I'm witnessing after 2008 floods. Still trying to find that magic flow that has been unaffected...

In downsizing, I'll be going with 10 lbs yellow braid. All of the fun of casting a lure on 2lbs test, without the line weakness. As spare, I'll care 15/4 and 20/6 in case a day of tube rage breaks out down in your deepest cover.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hot Hour 4/24/2010 Wade

The pre spawn was hardly a whimper this year. Now is my least favorite time of year to fish for smallmouth bass. Are they spawning, are they not? Funky, for sure. Big fish disappear only to appear again a month or two later. This spawning funk can go on for a month or two. One day they'll come out of it and rage for food the next. No rhyme or reason. I try to fish in current and ignore the typical spawning eddies.

I am hankering for a numbers day like crazy, since topwater bite has turned on. Spurts and fits, drib drab, starts and stops. Ooof. I would quit fishing for a couple months entirely, if I could.

I headed out to again check on our friends the WB's. There was some action, but mainly the small fish 5-7". I left and set out for smallies, bereft of willpower for anything but hounding my single species obsession. Like Gollum and the ring, my fate bound to a blow of the wind.

I threw the Sammy 65; a 2.5" 1/4 oz walk the dog topwater. A kindly dink hardly bigger than the bait showed me some mercy, so I kept with it. One thing this small topwater stick does well is cast and land softly. Sammy 65 has a downsized appeal that mimics the size of the minnows observed. A nice rattle in the bait gets their attention.

Water quality was great and stream was in great shape, despite brown algae now covering all the rocks and making them slippery for felt soled boots. A few unattended beds here and there. Lots of 15-16" fish staging for something. 12-14"ers manning the bed areas. Guarding or waiting for a girl? They didn't seem to stick closely to the beds so I guess waiting for a female.

For the first hour, Sammy 65 was hot. A 15.75" smallies destroyed it. Later a couple of 10-11"ers, then this 17" slammed the bait and went airborne before getting in the fast current pulling drag and putting on one hell of a show.

Next cast, I let the bait sit a while "BAM"! Destroyed. Another terrific fight. 16" fish. Another 15" on mini white chatterbait, a dink. Some well intended misses from small fish, another 15" and a 13". Even caught a Longear sunfish, couple of rockies, and shiner.

Fish got spooky. Lost Sammy 65 out of my pocket somewhere and couldn't get bit again.

Went home. Some of the most hellacious cool fights with hard topwater destruction, awesome jumps, drag pulling runs.

10 smallies (17, 16, 3 15-15.75")4 miscreant species. 3-4 hours.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

4/18/2010 wade

Hit a couple of streams throwing Rick Clunn 1.5 Wake crank. Caught everyfish on the bait. They don't miss it much.

Ended with 15 in like 4 hours. 2 14"ers were only notable catch.

Micro Flow/Mother Flow Wade 4/17/10

I stopped to check white bass, but they weren't there yet. I caught some dink LMB, met Mike, and left for a new small flow. Very promising. Lots of riffle pools. A few of them shallow, but lots of round rock habitat. We waded downstream and Mike got on the board first with a chunky 15" on 1/8th oz chatterbait. I added a dink on the chatterbait and we waded downstream, spooking lots of fish. Some beds were spotted and fish were hanging in spawnish areas, but not in pairs or groups.

I threw on a clown color LC pointer 78 to drift through shallow water and twitch. Just below one riffle the bait hit a rock, err piggish smallie (for this micro anyway) who could not get airborne. Got her to hand and she pinched shy of 18".

Mike got a couple on LC Wakecrank that were dinks. Then we came out into the main flow and waded up. Mike nails two more dinks on WC. I'm still throwing the jerk and drifting it patiently. Finally I get in on the act and we catch a few more dinks before I get a 14" on the WC in close to the bank.

We hit a large pool and pretty much chuck the WC. I get a 14" on splashdown, then Mike gets a 14" under bridge. We each get a dink and return where Mike pulls a nice one 13-14" off a laydown out into fast current to nail his bait. Lots of chasers that wouldn't commit. Seemed to be no rhym or reason to why they bit.

No action on the walk down maxi to micro flow. We wade back up micro flow, where I get a 14", 13", dink on the walk back. Current was just fast enough to wear a body out.

Seemed like more action than it was. We both saw plenty of fish in the microflow. Will be back soon to explore more. All but 3 bass came on topwaters.

Fish are in summertime haunts now. Lots of activity from all species. Algae growing on the bottom, but not in murking up the water yet at all vis to 4'.

BT 11 (17.75")
MC 8 (15")

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Another dog trip- Smallie eggs ready to drop.

Here's food for thought. I played hooky today and went north with dog to exercise her and hopefully some kite string too.

Interesting day.

First, fishing still sucked unless snagging 18-22" redhorses hand over fist with a jerkbait for an hour counts. Finally found a use for them...

The fish above was a 20" specimen which is pretty large for this species. BTW, anyone know if these are greater redhorse? The school I was playing with was probably 20 fish all 18-24"....

But...the water was like looking into an aquarium with polarized glasses on. I saw some great big schools of big redhorse in the shallows snarfing on algae! Picked out some quillback bothering smallies near beds, a buffalo fish! Haven't seen fish sitting in the open in push water in 2-3 years in these numbers. Saw about a half dozen gar tried snagging them too. You could make out the shadows of moving, spooking fish for remarkable little noise caused.


I counted no less than 10 fanned nests the size of big smallmouth. When I was able to see them from a high bank first without crunching up to the area, I witnessed paired up large smallmouth patrolling the area.

I had multiple pickups that didn't hook before I knew what was going on.

Couple fish to 15" and a couple of very obvious pick up and drops...

On the walk back, I finally figured out how to use pointer 78 type jerkbaits on stream and am kind of excited about it. Throw at front of laydown, two jerks to get it down, drift it past the side of laydown, twitch, drift.... mostly drift with the twitch coming to bring fish out of the cover. Drift like a fluke. Can walk the dog with slack line twitches. Should be the kind of precise fishing that will be a fun challenge in clear water. Caught a mess of dinks with this little guy below truly making me happy. Been a long time since I've caught one that small.

Here's hoping the big boys get the deed done and things stay dry. If they are ready to egg up near Delphi, then maybe that explains the funkiness. Seems like the little ones are waking up.

The other thought on one or two fish per spot is if the larger fish schooling in spawning pairs (or would be suitors ). Mike and I witnessed this beahviour on Sunday and true to form, the smallmouth I spotted from above were in following in spawning pairs. So catching one spooks the other..etc...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

4/11/2010 Micro Chatterbait Steals the Show

I've been commenting how many stream fish populations in Indiana were decimated by the floods of 2008. Since then, it has been remarkable how small the bait fish  are in many of our steams .5-1.5". This is not what I remember previous to the floods.

2009 saw a 3" fluke bite to draw some action, a 5" fluke, so deadly in 2007 became hard to get bit on. Was this because the standard smallmouth meal has shrunk in size?

So, I saw the 1/8th oz panfish chatterbait in Wallyworld, thinking I might downsize from the large 3/8 oz chatterbaits that I make myself...

Hit a rocky choke pool just above an obvious winter hole....

This fish was close to shore in an eddy. I actually saw the boil and strike on the 1/8th oz white chatterbait.

We took a break and within a few casts, another 18"+ SMB came out of the center of the stream:

Used the white bait to drop over boulders slow retrieve, sometimes ripping and some times allowing to drop.

Mike and I had some excitement when he hit a ridiculous 15"er:

Then I hooked a 17.5" fighter dragging a tube along a seam, it was followed by a couple of suckers and a larger black smallmouth that contemplated, it's mate's fate before darting off.

Still, numbers were not there, but I can't complain about the catch as these bass fought hard in the swift current.

BT 9 (18.25", 18", 17.5")
MC 4 (15")

In about 4:30 hours.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Smallmouth Lure That's Overrated...?

Reader input sought here. What lure for smallmouth bass do you find overrated or just can't get going on?

Mine would have to be hard jerkbaits. I've had some success with them. The Lucky Craft Pointer 100 in Misty Shad is my clear favorite with quite a few 20"+ fish on this bait.

Despite some big fish, I have never really killed the smallmouth on jerkbaits. I cannot catch a cold on the small ones. They are terrible on creeks in fall when they are supposed to be good. They hang on leaves like crazy. Almost unfishable a lot of places. My success with them has been in the spring.

A buddy mentioned they are more of a slack water bait. Maybe that's what I've been missing.