Category Archives: Bass Fishing

Bass Fishing Information

Lake Guntersville Weekly Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 9/18/21

The fall is starting to take ahold of the activity on the lake, there is schooling fish showing up, the bass are chasing some and there appears to be the most activity I have seen in a few months. It’s not every day but we are gaining ground on the activity and for the next 45 days it will just keep getting better!

There is a variety of baits producing; Picasso chatter baits, and spinner baits, Tight-Line swim jigs and football jigs. We are still seeing a good SPRO frog bite in certain areas of the lake, SPRO Aruka shad rattle baits these are all producing at different times. Fish hard move a lot and look for bait movement and you will find the fish.

Come fish with me I have days and guides available to fish with you. We fish with great sponsor products, Ranger Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Boat Logix mounts, Mercury Motors, Lews Fishing, Vicious Fishing, Duckett Fishing, Power Pole, Missile baits and more.

Fish Lake Guntersville Guide Service
Call: 256 759 2270
Capt. Mike Gerry

I Love All Kinds of Fishing

I love bass fishing and all other kinds, too

There is nothing quite like the joy of sitting by the water watching a bobber float, waiting on a passing fish to bite your bait. You can kick back in peace and quiet, relax and enjoy watching the world go by.

There is nothing quite like the joy of running down the lake 70 mph at daylight, slowing as you go in a cove, hopping up on the front deck of your bass boat and making your first of thousands of casts. You concentrate on every little detail going on the water, how your bait is working and the images on your electronics.

I love both. I spent many happy hours while growing up sitting by mama or grandmama waiting on a bream or catfish to bite in ponds near home. There is something special about seeing the cork move to the side or go under when a fish takes your bait. And I learned a lot listening to them give me life advice.

Until 1974 when Jim Berry invited me to join the Spalding County Sportsman Club and we fished a tournament, my first ever, at Clarks Hill in April, I never realized how exciting fishing can be. I fell in love with the challenge of tournament fishing and the highs and lows of those events.

I will never forget sitting by a small fire on the bank of a cove at Clarks Hill with mama. We had put a trotline across the cove then built a small fire at dusk and set out our rods, hoping for a catfish. We talked lot that night, staying out there till well after midnight.

At 18 years old, that was the first time I really remember mama talking to me like an adult. It is a melancholy memory, I left for my freshman year of college a few weeks after that and my life at home was never the same.

I will also never forget the thrill of figuring out a pattern at West Point Lake in 1983, catching 18 keepers in two days that weighed 28 pounds, and placing fourth in the state Top Six tournament with 570 competitors.

That was a high. Lows like last July at West Point, where I fished for eight hours in a club tournament and got one bite and missed it, are all too common. Zero days happen as do winning days.

Every bite in a tournament is a challenge to get and then to land what hits. It is different from sitting on the bank. Not better, just different.

I have many great memories of fishing ponds and Clarks Hill with daddy and mama, as well as with friends and other family memories. I have more great memories of tournament fishing. My growing up memories cover about 18 years, my tournament memories cover 47!

To each his own in choosing the way to fish. Me, I will choose both!

One Fish Tournament at West Point Lake

Sunday, July 25 was certainly a challenge at West Point for the 12 members and guests in the July Spalding County Sportsman Club tournament. We landed 16 keepers weighing about 25 pounds in eight hours of very hot casting. There was one five-bass limit and five people didn’t catch a keeper.

Jay Gerson made it two in a row, winning with the only limit weighing 7.97 pounds. Kwong Yu caught two keepers weighing 6.19 pounds for second and his 4.78 pound largemouth was big fish. Third went to Wayne Teal, fishing with Jay, with three weighing 3.60 pounds and Raymond English had two at 2.07 pounds for fourth.

Chris Davies and I started at 6:00 AM in the dark on a deep rocky bank that transitioned to shallow wood. I thought some bass may have moved to that area to feed during the night. The full moon would encourage them to feed at night, and bream should be bedding around the wood, another attraction.

It was the same bank I started on last July and got and missed my only bite that day on a buzzbait at first light. I started casting the buzzbait in the dark. We could barely make out the bank we were casting to in the moonlight.

Suddenly, at the end of a cast right beside the boat, a bass grabbed my buzzbait. I instinctively set the hook, the fish arched out of the water but luckily stayed on the hook and landed in the bottom of the boat. It was a 13-inch spotted bass.

I continued to fish the buzzbait around cover while Chris tried a variety of baits behind me. Neither of us could get a bite. As the sun got higher, I went to a rocky point where I have caught bass this time of year in the past. My first cast with a shaky head something thumped it as soon as the bait hit the bottom.

I tried to set the hook but the fish ran toward me, never a good sign. But then my line tightened up and went under the boat, the fish was hooked. Unfortunately, when I reeled the pound and a half fish to where I could see it, it was a channel cat. Fun to catch, good to eat, but no help in a tournament.

At weigh-in Zane said he caught two catfish while fishing for bass. A trip to West Point for catfish might be a good idea right now. If they are hitting artificial baits no telling what you can catch on catfish bait!

In the next shallow pocket I caught a 13 inch largemouth on my buzzbait, but largemouth have to be 14 inches long. Then Chris caught a 13-inch largemouth. Although we fished hard until quitting time and were the last boat to come back to the ramp, we did not catch another fish!

My 13 inch spot weighed one pound and was good for 7th place!


from The Fishing Wire

Catch big largemouth like this one

At this time of year, many of the bass we are after are deep. They’re away from the shoreline relating to offshore features. And though today’s electronics can help us find them, catching them is a whole other matter.

Let’s assume we know where they are, their depth and the type of structure they’re holding on. What lures would you throw?

One that’s high on my list is a big spinnerbait — the kind specifically designed for fishing deep. I’m talking 3/4-ounce and heavier. The kind that get down quick and stay there throughout the retrieve. The kind that can also attract bass from a distance, or pull them out of heavy cover … even trick those that aren’t in the mood to feed.

Why a blade bait, you ask?

Spinnerbaits are relatively snag proof. They have the ability to pass through cover too gnarly for other moving lures — particularly crankbaits. And that makes them ideal for probing submerged brush, rockpiles and thick grass.

Spinnerbaits are also great baitfish imitators.

Whether it’s a cluster of small threadfin or large, single gizzard shad, the right blade size, color and profile can fool bass into believing the lure is real. We’re talking willow-leaf blades, of course — either tandem or paired with a leading Colorado blade.

Willow-leaf blades are fish-shaped and they give off a tremendous amount of flash. Built with the right combination of components and head weight, they can maintain lateral movement while maximizing travel time through the strike zone. And that is precisely why slow-rolling a spinnerbait is so effective. The key is keeping the lure in frequent contact with the bottom or the cover related to it.

For instance, if you’re fishing the edge of a deep, submerged grassbed, you’ll want to be sure the lure stays in contact with the grass as it tapers off into deeper water. When the lure grabs the grass, rip it free and let it fall on a semi-slack line. At least until you feel the grass again. Then repeat. Strikes will usually occur as the lure is falling or when it regains forward motion.

The same applies to stumps, brush and rock. When the bait gets hung up, try ripping it free with a snatch of the rod tip. This sudden movement and flash mimics escaping prey and it can trigger a bass to strike.

The right setup

To better facilitate these moves, it’s important to have the right balance of tackle.

Big spinnerbaits require heavier line with stout rods and reels.

My personal preference includes a Shimano 7’2” Expride casting rod in a medium-heavy action with moderate-fast tip. That length and action is ideal for casting big blade baits, as well as taking up slack on long distance hooksets. And I can feel every pulse of the lure as the blades turn. I pair it with their slower, 6.2:1 ratio Metanium MGL III reel, which allows me to retrieve the spinnerbait at the right rate of speed — assuring that it stays deep throughout the retrieve. The Metanium’s magnesium frame telegraphs even the most subtle vibrations, so I know what the lure is doing at all times. And it has the guts to handle big baits and big bass in thick cover.

The line I spool it with depends on certain variables. If the water I’m fishing is super clear or the fish are line sensitive, I’ll go with 15- to 20-pound fluoro. If I want to “feather” the lure through the tops of submerged grass or brush, I may choose mono in the same pound rating for its buoyancy. In extra thick cover or if I know I’m on big bass, I’ll opt for Power Pro Super Slick braid — usually in the 30-pound class.

The business end

Assuming you have the right balance of tackle, let’s discuss lure choice.

Most spinnerbaits used for this technique come with tandem blades, consisting of double willow or Colorado-willow combinations. That’s not to say that single spins won’t work, they will at times. But if you surveyed the top touring bass professionals, most would tell you they prefer a tandem model with a leading Colorado and trailing willow-leaf. The Colorado will provide much of the vibration, while the willow-leaf will better match the profile of live baitfish. Willows also provide maximum flash without forcing the lure to rise too much.

Spinnerbaits designed for slow rolling are usually bigger in all aspects — the blades, frame, head and hooks are all upsized. But it’s important that all of these components are balanced and working together … even the skirt and/or trailer can influence the lures overall performance.

Some anglers prefer super-sized trailing blades — No. 7 or 8 willow leafs. That’s fine if you’re after giant bass. But keep in mind, the larger the blade, the more resistance it will

create, and the more likely the lure will “climb” during the retrieve. So, unless you have the patience of Job, I would suggest No. 5 or 6 willow-shaped blades. They turn easier, which can create more flash and vibration.

I generally prefer a No.4 front blade (either Colorado or willow) paired to a No.6 trailing willow leaf.

My spin on things

Years ago, I designed a spinnerbait for Hildebrandt, specifically for slow rolling. We named it the Tin Roller. And, as you can probably guess, it’s molded with pure tin.

We chose this material for several reasons. At the time of its design, a national ban on lead was being considered. Concerned, I worked with Hildebrandt to find an alternative material — one with similar properties but nontoxic to birds, mammals or fish. And after numerous trials, we found tin to be the best alternative. It wasn’t as good as lead. It was better!

Here’s how.

Because tin is much harder than lead, it transmits sound and vibration better. That means, when the lure is traveling and the blades are turning, the head, hook and shirt will shake more with each pulse. And that extra movement can attract fish. Also, because tin is approximately two-thirds the weight of lead by volume, a large profile spinnerbait can be finessed through structure with less chance of snagging … appearing more realistic as it pulses.

When it comes to blade finishes, nickel-silver or gold are the two most common choices. Skirt patterns are normally white, chartreuse, or a blend of the two. If a soft-plastic trailer is added, its coloration usually matches one of these patterns. Obviously there are exceptions. But day in and day out, these are the most reliable combinations.

These are the tools I use when fishing a spinnerbait through deep structure. Hopefully what I’ve shared will help you next time you’re out on the water.

Follow Bernie Schultz on Facebook and through his website.



SOCIAL CIRCLE, GA (July 20, 2021) – Catch five different black bass species and you have a Georgia Bass Slam! This program recognizes anglers with the knowledge and skill to catch different species of bass in a variety of habitats across the state, while also stimulating interest in the conservation and management of black bass and their habitats, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.

Georgia’s ten (10) recognized native black bass species are largemouth, smallmouth, shoal, Suwannee, spotted, redeye, Chattahoochee, Tallapoosa, Altamaha and Bartram’s. Anglers can find out more about these eligible bass species, including images, location maps and more at

How Can You Participate? To qualify for the Georgia Bass Slam, fish must be caught within a calendar year, must be legally caught on waters where you have permission to fish, and anglers must provide some basic information on the catch (length, weight-if available, county and waterbody where caught) accompanied by several photos of each fish. Anglers will submit information to for verification. Complete rules posted at

What is Your Reward? Well, besides bragging rights among all the anglers and non-anglers you know, you will receive a certificate worthy of framing, two Go Fish Education Center passes, and some fantastic and fun stickers (for vehicle windows/bumpers) to advertise your achievement. Anglers also will be recognized on the WRD website, at the Go Fish Education Center (, and possibly through a variety of social media platforms. In addition, all successful submissions will go into a drawing for an annual grand prize!

Don’t have time to dedicate to catch five species of bass, but maybe you have your eye on a lunker largemouth? We have a program for that, too! The Trophy Bass Angler Award program recognizes largemouth bass catches of 10 pounds or greater. These fish are rare, and the data from these catches helps to provide genetics and growth information that is valuable to fisheries managers. Those that successfully submit a qualified fish will receive a certificate, hat, t-shirt and an entry into a drawing for a reward package. Oh, and catch one larger than 13 pounds, and you may be eligible for a free mount of your bass! More info at

For more information, visit

Bass Are Always Biting Somewhere for Someone

Bass are always biting somewhere for someone on a big lake. The Flint River Bass Club July tournament on Lake Sinclair last Sunday proved this in a big way. In eight hours of fishing, 11 members and guests landed 29 12-inch keeper bass weighing about 61 pounds. There were two five bass limits and one person did not catch a keeper.

Niles Murray blew us all away with five bass weighing 17.08 pounds and his stringer included two identical 4.52 pounders. Lee Hancock placed second with three weighing 8.46 pounds and had big fish with a 4.76 pound largemouth. Doug Acree came in third with fiv weighing 8.39 pounds and Niles’s guest, Otis Budd, came in fourth with four weighing 7.32 pounds.

My day started and ended bad. On the way to the ramp I hit either a hole or something right on the side of the road with my trailer tire. When I got in the boat and Alex started backing me in, I heard the telltale sound of a flat tire. I had not noticed anything wrong until then.

I waited to put the spare on after weigh-in since it is much easier to put it on an empty trailer. Thanks to Doug Acree and Niles Murray for their help, it took only a few minutes. Then Chuck Croft stuck around and pulled me out after I loaded my boat.

In the tournament my start was not good. I missed two hits on a buzzbait, jerking one keeper out of the water all the way to the boat but it came off. Then I caught a keeper on the buzzbati between two docks. There seemed to be no reason for the fish to be where it was.

I noticed some mayflies and started fishing around them but caught only bream. I finally caught a second keeper at 9:00 on a shaky head worm near some brush, then with an hour left to fish caught my third one on a floating worm in grass. My three weighed 3.46 pounds and was good for sixth place, not the day I wanted.

Fishing Lay Lake With Zeke Gossett

It was nice and peaceful on Lay Lake a few weeks ago on Tuesday and the bass were biting, if you knew where to go and what to throw. Zeke Gossett knows both. I met this young man about eight years ago when he was a sophomore in high school. I set up a trip with him for a magazine article not knowing his age and was shocked. His skills and knowledge of fishing were better than mine!

Zeke won many fishing awards in high school and college, including winning the College Classic on Lay Lake last year. This year he was third in the College Classic in Texas and he and his partner won the point standings College Team of the Year in 2020.

Now Zeke is trying to establish a professional fishing career while guiding on the Coosa River chain of lakes and Lake Martin. His father is one of the best bass fishermen in the area and coaches a high school team that has won high school team of the year two years in a row.

His knowledge of these lakes is exceptional from his own fishing as well as the teaching of his father. I have recommended him to some friends for guide trips and they were pleased. As many good fishermen as I get to fish with doing magazine articles, Zeke is the only one I have done three articles with!

Zeke showed me two good patterns for Lay Lake in August, and they are already working now. Lay is full of shallow grass beds and Zeke caught several nice bass casting frogs to the grass. Bream were bedding and Zeke knows there will usually be a big bass or several around a bream bed.

Another good pattern is fishing the many brush piles fishermen have put out on points and humps. These brush piles in 10 to 20 feet of water are magnets for summertime fish. They hold in them and feed around them day and night.

The night before we fished Zeke had placed second in a three-hour night tournament. He weighed in a three fish limit weighing almost ten pounds in that short time, missing first place by a couple of ounces!

While we fished Zeke caught about a dozen bass on humps and points with brush casting a topwater plug over the brush and working a jerk bait down deeper. I even caught a nice keeper spot while taking a casting break from my pen, pad and camera.

I get to fish with many amazing fishermen doing my magazine articles and Zeke is one of the best. There are a lot of young fishermen out there coming up into the pros and I get to watch as their careers develop. I am jealous!

While we fished many college fishermen were on Lay Lake practicing for a college wild card tournament that was held Thursday and Friday. I was amazed to see college age kids drive up in $50,000.00 trucks puling $80,000.00 boats.

When I was in college I ate 10 cents a can Showboat Spaghetti and loaf bread for dinner to save money. And I was one of the few lucky ones in my fraternity to have a car, an eight-year old hand me down Chevy Bel Air. There were students driving around Athens in new Vets and Mustangs, but they lived and revolved in a different world.

I know some college fishermen drive old vehicles and very well used boats and have done articles with some of them, but they seem to be the exception to the rule. I fear college fishing is developing into a sport for the rich.


from The Fishing Wire

Gustafson flipping

Few presentations outproduce flipping when bass tuck tight into shallow cover. Such was the case at the 51st Bassmaster Classic, recently held on Lake Ray Roberts in North Texas. In the weeks leading up to the event, unrelenting rains caused the lake to swell, with high water inundating shoreline brush and trees and providing resident largemouth with nearly boundless opportunities to explore previously inaccessible cover.

“When these big southern reservoirs flood, incredible numbers of bass head for the bushes and stay there as long as the water remains high,” reflected Elite Series Pro and two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson.

“Typically, by the time June arrives, the best bite is usually offshore, where fish will bite on everything from football jigs to big crankbaits to topwaters – and that’s what I’d prefer to be doing. But the reality is, I’ll be spending lots of time flipping those flooded bushes to get the five quality bites I need each day.”

And flip, he did. By happenstance, I was paired with Gussy as his marshal on day 2 of the Bassmaster Classic, which afforded me the unique opportunity to spend the day observing – and dissecting – the mechanics and mindset of an elite angler competing in an apex-level event. I would be a student in Gussy’s flipping masterclass from the back deck of his Lund 2075 Pro-V Bass boat.


Flipping is a short-range, shallow water technique that delivers a bait into heavy cover.

Flipping, of course, is a short-range, shallow water technique that delivers a bait into heavy cover. Anglers swing the lure on a pendulum-like cast and gently feather it into the water, minimizing surface disturbance as the bait plunges quickly to the bottom. “Flipping elicits a reaction strike,” noted the Kenora, Ontario native who won his first Bassmaster Elite Series event earlier in 2021 on the Tennessee River. “Bass will often pounce on the bait as it falls or right when it contacts the bottom; frequently, you’ll feel that fish as soon as you engage the reel and come tight to the bait. My routine is to drop to the bottom, giving the bait a couple shakes if I didn’t get bit on the way down, and then reel in and repeat.”


Covering lots of water is the key to finding fishy targets.

With dozens of miles of flooded shoreline available, all brimming with fishy-looking bushes, where does one begin? Gussy remarked, “during practice, I’d start at one end of a long stretch of shoreline and flip my way to the other end. Invariably, there would be one or two key sections that provided consistent bites or larger average size. What makes those areas different from the miles of flooded bushes that aren’t attracting fish? Maybe it’s the bottom content; rocks attract more crayfish than does mud. Sometimes it’s the density of the vegetation; often, an isolated bush provides more consistent action than an uninterrupted line of greenery. Covering lots of water is the key to locating these fishy targets.”

While an individual flip doesn’t necessarily cover a lot of water, the rapid, rhythmic nature of the presentation allows anglers to survey significant territory during the fishing day. Out of curiosity, I counted the number of flips that Gussy made per minute while plying these flooded waters searching for Texas largemouth; each time I counted, Gussy flipped between six and seven times per minute. That’s at least 360 flips in an hour and closing in on 3000 flips for a solid eight-hour day of fishing. With Gussy at the helm, each flip was short, precise, and purposeful. A bush wouldn’t get just one flip; Gussy would flip to the left side, in front, to the right side, and often behind the shrub as well. “You just don’t know where that bass might be sitting or what direction it’s facing; so, you’ve got to cover all the options before moving on.”


Gussy flipped up to 360 times each hour in search of quality Texas largemouth.

Precision boat control is an essential yet sometimes overlooked aspect of successful flipping. “I try to stay off the trolling motor as much as possible – just a quick touch of my Minn Kota Ultrex 112 here and there as needed – to avoid spooking these shallow fish,” remarked Gustafson. “I use the wind to push me along if I can, but often, that speed is just too fast to hit all the key casting targets. So if I find myself in a particularly fishy pocket, or when I need a minute to deal with a hooked fish or re-rig a bait, I deploy my twin Minn Kota Talon shallow water anchors to lock the boat in place.”


Gussy flipped his way to success using a G. Loomis NRX+ rod paired with a Shimano Metanium reel.

The tournament day began with a broad selection of rods on the front deck of Gussy’s Lund, including rods rigged with a swim jig, a spinnerbait, and even a Texas-sized plastic worm. “Gotta keep ‘em honest,” quipped the Canadian cowboy. Truthfully, Gussy did throw those baits occasionally. Ultimately, however, Gussy caught all of that day’s fish using a flipping stick. His weapon of choice was a G. Loomis NRX+ 895C JWR – a 7’5” rod with extra-heavy power and fast action – equipped with a Shimano Metanium reel. “This combination is incredibly light and sensitive yet extremely powerful and durable. I can flip all day for a week and never have the slightest amount of arm fatigue. At the same time, once a fish bites, the NRX+ 895 rod has the power needed to bury the hook and to get the fish’s head turned quickly, while the 7.1:1 gear ratio Metanium winches it out of trouble.” Gussy spooled his Metanium with 50 lb test PowerPro braided line and threaded on a ⅜ oz Flat Out Tungsten flipping weight, held in place using a small rubber bobber stop. Then, Gussy tied directly to a Gamakatsu 3/0 Super Heavy Cover Flippin’ Hook using a snell knot.

Flipping lends itself to a wide range of lure choices, with creature baits being one of the frequently presented styles. As we waited out a two-hour storm delay, Gussy engaged his neighbor in the take-off line, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Chad Morganthaler, in some friendly dock talk as Gussy asked, “how am I going to flip my way to five keeper bites today?” Morgenthaler, a seven-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier, responded with one word: tubes. As it turned out, Gussy left his entire tube selection with his smallmouth bass gear at home near Ontario’s Lake of the Woods, so Morgenthaler reached into one of his compartments and gave Gussy a handful to try. “Each of us out here wants to see everyone succeed, and we try to help each other out anytime we can,” noted a thankful Gustafson as he rigged up his first borrowed tube.


Tubes borrowed from two other Bassmaster Classic competitors let Gussy flip his way into championship Sunday.

Morgenthaler’s tubes would prove pivotal. By mid-morning, Gussy had three keeper fish in the livewell and had sorted through several members of the lake’s junior-varsity bass squad – but was down to a single tattered tube. Luckily, help was about to arrive as another Classic competitor, Seth Feider, idled into view. A quick exchange led to Feider recharging Gussy’s tube supply with a generous pile of green pumpkin-patterned baits. Those borrowed tubes helped Gussy capture a tournament limit of over 13 pounds that day and secure a berth in the Classic’s Sunday championship round.

GIve flipping a try the next time that high skies and high water push bass into shallow cover. Tips and tactics from Gussy’s masterclass will surely connect you with flipping success.


Gussy’s tools and tactics will help connect you with flipping success.




About the author: Dr. Jason Halfen is a long-time guide, tournament angler, and specialist in marine electronics. He owns and operates The Technological Angler, dedicated to teaching anglers to leverage hi-tech tools to find and catch more fish. Learn more by visiting

Fishing Clarks Hill in July

While at Clarks Hill on Memorial Day “working” on my July Georgia Outdoor News Map of the Month article, I watched a pot tournament weigh in.  There were 22 teams fishing and it took took five weighing 18.5 pounds for first, 17 pounds for second, 14.7 pounds for third and fourth was 13.12 pounds.  Big fish was a tie with matching 5.8 pounders.

Fishing will get tougher and tougher as the water gets hotter this summer. Fish can still be caught, as the tournament at Clarks Hill shows, but it will take more effort for most of us.  But trying is still a lot more fun than most other options!

Fish at Clarks Hill school on blueback herring all summer and would be a good choice for a trip.  My July article will give tips on baits to use and ten places marked on a map and with GPS coordinates, to show you what kind of places to fish.


Summer Tactic for Virginia Smallmouths

By Alex McCrickard, Virgina DGIF Aquatic Education Coordinator

from The Fishing Wire

During the dog days of summer, many anglers put their rods and reels down and are content to wait until later in the fall for cooler weather.  Unfortunately, these anglers end up missing some of the most exciting warm water fishing conditions of the year.  During this time frame, I tend to focus my efforts on one species of fish in Virginia, smallmouth bass.  Pound for pound and inch for inch, these fish fight harder than most other freshwater fish in the state.

Smallmouth Bass in Virginia

Smallmouth bass, frequently referred to as smallies or bronzebacks, are a freshwater member of the sunfish family: Centrarchidae.  Their green and brown sides are often marked with vertical black bars.  Some of these fish have war paint like markings extending horizontally and diagonally behind their eyes and across their gill plates.  Smallmouth bass are native to the Great Lakes system and the Mississippi River Basin including the Tennessee and Big Sandy River Drainages of Southwest Virginia.  However, these game fish have been introduced all across the Piedmont of Virginia and are truly a worthy opponent on rod and reel.  Because of the smallmouth’s widespread range in Virginia, they are readily available to anglers fishing west of the coastal plains above the fall lines of our major river systems.  This allows anglers who reside in cities and large metropolitan areas to fish local as smallmouth opportunities are plentiful.  The James River in Lynchburg and RichmondRappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Rivanna River in Charlottesville, Maury River near Lexington, and the New River in Blacksburg are fine examples of local opportunities.

The author with a fine summer smallmouth on the James River. Photo by Joe Revercomb.

The mainstem and larger tributaries of these rivers are full of smallmouth. Anglers in Northern Virginia can focus efforts on the Upper Potomac River as well as the Shenandoah mainstemNorth Fork, and South Fork.  The North Fork of the Holston River and the Clinch River provide excellent smallmouth opportunities in Southwest Virginia.  Floating these larger rivers in a canoe or raft can be a great way to cover water, just remember to wear your life jacket. You can also wade fish these rivers and their tributaries, especially in the lower flows of late summer.

Summer Conditions

My favorite conditions to fish for smallmouth are from mid-summer into early fall.  During this time of the year our rivers and streams are typically at lower flows with fantastic water clarity.  These conditions provide for some incredible sight fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass.  Look for fish to be holding against steep banks with overhanging trees and vegetation.  During the middle of hot summer days it can pay off huge when you find a shady bank with depth and current.  It can also be productive to target riffles and pocket water during this time of the year.  Smallmouth will often be in the faster and more oxygenated water when river temperatures get hot.

It’s important to think about structure when locating summer smallmouth.  These fish will often be found along a rock ledge or drop off.  Log jams, underwater grass beds, and emergent water willow also provide structure that these fish can use for cover.  Smallmouth can be found along current seams where fast water meets slow water.  Fishing a quiet pocket behind a mid-river boulder or targeting the tailout of an island where two current seams come together is a good idea.

During hot, bright, summer days the fishing can be most productive early in the morning and again in the evening.  I try to fish during these times as smallmouth will often be active during low light conditions and can get sluggish during the middle of a hot bright afternoon.  That being said, these fish can be caught in the middle of bright sunny days as well.  Also, afternoon cloud cover and a light shower can turn the fishing on in a matter of moments.

Wade fishing can be a great way to break up a float during a hot summer day. Photo by Alex McCrickard

Summer Feeding Habits

Smallmouth bass are piscivores, they feed primarily on other fish.  Various species of shiners, darters, dace, and sunfish are bass favorites.  These fish also prefer large aquatic insects like hellgrammite nymphs and crayfish.  However, the abundance of other aquatic and terrestrial insects allow smallmouth to diversify their menu in the summertime.  It is not uncommon for these fish to target damselflies and dragonflies during summer hatches.  I’ve seen summer smallmouth feeding on the surface with reckless abandon as damselflies hovered along a water willow island on the James River.  These fish are happy to eat large cicadas, grasshoppers, or crickets that find their way into the water.  These seasonal food sources allow for exciting topwater action.

One time during a mid-August float on the James River I found a long bank with overhanging sycamore trees providing shade along the edge of the river.  I had been fishing a subsurface Clouser Minnow without a strike for nearly an hour.  Because it was a windy afternoon I figured I would try my luck with a small green Boogle Bug popper on my 6 wt fly rod.  A few casts later I had a fine smallmouth explode on the popper underneath the overhanging tree limbs.  I landed the fish and held it up for a photo just in time to see it regurgitate a half dozen large Japanese beetles.  The fish had been utilizing the windy conditions to snack on beetles as they got blown into the water.  It can really pay off to change patterns based on water and weather conditions.

Fishing with friends is a great way to spend time on the water. Joe Revercomb shows off a nice Virginia smallmouth caught on a popper. Photo by Patrick Dudley

Rods/Reels & Tackle/Approach

Medium to medium light spinning and baitcasting rods in the 7 foot range are great for late summer smallmouth.  It can pay off to scale down in low clear water.  You may want to consider fishing 6-8 lb test instead of 10-12 lb.  Soft plastics work well for smallmouth and favorites include swim baits and tubes.  Various spinnerbaits can be a great way to cover water in the larger rivers during this time of the year.  Sometimes you can be surprised at how well a simple Mepps spinner or Rooster tail will produce.  Topwater baits are a late summer “go to” with low and clear water.  Try fishing buzzbaits, the smaller Whopper Plopper 90, Zara Spooks, and Heddon Tiny Torpedos.  Buzzbaits and Whopper Ploppers can be retrieved quickly across the surface enticing explosive takes.  The rotating tail of the Whopper Plopper acts like a propeller and creates lots of noise and attention.

For fly fishing, 9 to 10 foot rods in the 6 to 8 wt range are best.  A 9ft 5wt may work well on the smaller rivers across Virginia but you will want a heavier rod on our larger rivers.  Heavier rods in the 7 to 8 wt range will also turn over some of the bigger bugs we tend to throw this time of year on floating fly lines.  A 9ft tapered leader in the 0x to 3x range will work well depending on water clarity and flows.  Fishing large poppers like Boogle Bugs or Walt Cary’s “Walt’s Bass Popper” will get the smallmouth going.  The Surface Seducer Double Barrel popper by Martin Bawden pushes lots of water.  Large foam cicada patterns, Japanese beetle patterns, and western style Chernoyble Ants are fun when fished tight to the bank.  Don’t forget to include a few damselfly and dragonfly patterns in your summer smallmouth fly box.

Don’t let the dog days of summer keep you from missing some of the most exciting warm water fishing conditions of the year!

When fishing these surface flies and lures, the takes can be very visual.  Sometimes during a strip and pause retrieve, the smallmouth will slowly approach the fly from 5 feet away to gently sip it like a trout.  Other times a fast strip retrieve will generate explosive takes.  These visual late summer takes are hard to beat!

If the fish aren’t looking up you can do well stripping streamers.  Bob Clouser’s Clouser Minnow was developed for smallmouth bass and a variety of colors can be productive this time of the year.  My favorite color combinations for this fly are chartreuse and white, olive and white, as well as a more natural brown and white.  The dumbbell eyes on this fly make it swim up and down through the water column as you retrieve.  Lefty Kreh’s Deceiver is another fine smallmouth fly along with the famous Half & Half which is a combination of the Clouser Minnow and Deceiver.  Chuck Kraft’s Kreelex has become a favorite amongst fly anglers in Virginia and the smallmouth can’t seem to ignore it.  The flashy profile of this fly attracts fish in clear and stained water.  Another popular smallmouth streamer is the Gamechanger developed by Blane Chocklett.  The Gamechanger is multi-sectioned allowing it to swim naturally through the water column.  Most other articulated streamers developed for trout fishing will also be productive on smallmouth bass as well.  All of these streamers come in a variety of sizes.  When choosing fly size, it’s essential to match the size of the forage fish the smallmouth are keying in on.  This can vary from larger rivers to smaller tributaries but typically sizes 2-6 will work well with larger patterns being in the 1, 1/0, and 2/0 sizes.

Crayfish and Hellgrammite patterns can be productive during the heat of the day in late summer.  Harry Murray’s Hellgrammite and Strymph can be fished with success lower in the water column closer to the bottom of the river.  Chuck Kraft’s Clawdad and Crittermite are two other go to patterns.  Its best to try numerous different approaches and techniques until you can find out what the fish are keyed in on each day.

In all, late summer smallmouth should be on your angling to do list.  The conditions during this time of the year are excellent for sight fishing and cater to a topwater approach.  From the smaller tributaries to the larger rivers, smallmouth opportunities are diverse across the state.  Make time to get out this summer and fish local in Virginia.