Subtle Changes for Spring Smallmouth

Smallmouth Bass have a reputation for being here today and gone tomorrow. A good friend once told me that river smallmouth are like modern day drifters, always carrying a suitcase on their backs. This can be very true in the spring as they migrate to there spawning habitat. Much of their movements are due to fluctuating river levels and also water temperatures. During the pre-spawn it can be feast or famine when locating and catching these beautiful bronze fish.  Subtle changes in lure action or size can sometimes be the difference between landing a few fish or constantly grabbing the net. 
 
My scenario this week, as follows: Blue bird skies, light winds, on a warm 75-80 degree April afternoon with high, but falling water levels. Slightly stained clarity with about 18-24 inches of visibility. River temperatures climbing to the low 50s, with the shallows starting to warm quickly. 
The main focus as I set out for an evening of paddling was to locate fish. Due to the higher water levels, I, thought the majority of the fish would be positioned near the banks below large current breaks. River banks tend to gradually taper from deep to shallow causing water temperatures to naturally warm faster near the banks. Just another reason why my theory for beating the banks seemed plausible. Normally in the spring I start with an aggressive or power approach to fishing. Lures like a spinnerbait or a crank bait can cover the water column swiftly and effectively. Mainly trying to entice the fish to react or evoke a predatory instinct that causes them to almost attack the lure whether hungry or brimful. I usually keep it simple with color choices and seem to find that chartreuse really excels when fishing stained water for spring smallmouth.
 
Two hours go by without much success, but I know the fish are around. I’d been throwing a 412 Bait co spinnerbait that garnished the attention of a couple smallmouth, although wasn’t sure that pattern was going to be much more successful. The craw colored crank bait hadn’t picked up anything but some leaves and dead grass. I knew it was time to fine tune my presentation. I had an extra chartreuse shad spinnerbait skirt that was working earlier, so I decided to put that on a Zman Chatterbait paired with a 412 bait co grub. The Chatterbait has a tighter action while still creating a nice vibration like the spinner. It also hunts and deflects off the rocky river structure like a crank. The grub also added a certain thump and bulk as a trailer. Thinking this could be the best of both worlds, it was time for the experiment. 
 
By this time, I, was floating atop my Coosa just below a small island that provided a large break in current. Knowing there is a ledge system that runs parallel with the island it seemed to be the perfect testing site. Ten casts later and 4 fish gracing the net it was starting to come together for my so called “Frankenstein Lure”. Placing pieces of the puzzle together in order to establish a triumphant pattern. That is simply what we anglers try to do every time we hit the water. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. That is why the old cliche goes “It’s called fishing, not catching”. I went on that day to land many more smallmouth positioned in the same areas I originally thought they would be. 
 
In closing, let me be the first to take this advice, don’t get discouraged. Many times patients and persistence will pay off. For me it took a little imagination and a subtle change from turning a tough day into a memorable one. 

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