Part Sixty

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Part 3

By Tom Keith
Excerpt from: Fly Tying and Fishing for
PANFISH & BASS
Thanks to Frank Amato Publications!


Crawdad
Crawdads spend much of their lives in, around, and under rocks and ledges, and dense growths of aquatic vegetation. They are sensitive to light andlike to hide in dark holes and shaded spots during the day. They do most of their foraging for food along shorelines a night, but heavily overcast days they are sometimes active during daylight hours. You'll see them crawling slowly over rubble on the bottom with an awkward backward movement that causes them to fall or slide sideways off of rocks and other objects.

A crawdad sits on the bottom, usually near rocks or vegetation, waiting for food items to be washed to him. When disturbed, he scurries backward, and when threatened, he plants his tail and rears backward, raising his large pincers in front of him like a boser to protect himself. When he retreats along the bottom his quick movements often stir-up silt and you can follow his path by watching puffs of silt rise in the water.

Regardless of where they are found, smallmouth bass feed extensively on minnows because the small fish always seem to be in good supply in or near areas of vegetation, downed trees, fallen limbs, and shallow spots where bushes and trees hang out over and into the water.

One of our favorite minnow-imitating flies is the Black and White Long Streamer. It is very effective in various shallow-water spots where schools of minnows congregate. There is a tendency among fishermen to use streamers and bucktails that are too large. The adage big streamers for big fish may have some basis in fact, but we've caught plenty of large fish on small streamers. And, between hooking those large fish we've enjoyed catching many medium-sized fish that provided a lot of excitement.

We've had good luck in the spring with streamers and bucktails from 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, which is about the size of live minnows most people normally yse for crappie fishing. Later in the year, or in especially fast water, we use that same pattern tied a little lparger, say 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long.

I like to wade upstream when I'm streamer fishing. I try to concentrate on wading slowly while using natural cover to conceal my approach. Most of the smallmouths will be facing upstream into the current, and I think by quietly wading up from behind, I can get closer without frightening them, make better casts ahead of their position and control the fly as it moves back down to them.

Remember that minnows congregate in weed and grass beds where they can find forage organisms and hide from predators. Those are the areas you want to concentrate on when you are fishing streamers. Keep the fly close to the vegetation and retrieve it with movements that imitate a ling minnow. Predators take injured or ill minnows first because they move slowly and are easy to catch, so try to make our fly imlitate the erratic movements of a stricken minnow.

If you are going to be a consistently successful smallmouth fisherman, you have to learn to fish hellgrammite flies properly. Hellgrammites are the largest stage of the dobsonfly and many fishermen swear they are the best bait you can use when stream fishing for smallmouths. Hellgrammites average 2 1/2 to 3 inches long and range from brown to dark-brown to black in color. They have many legs on both sides of their slender bodies and seem to be flexible in all directions. They also have small, strong pincers that hurt if they nip you. They live under rocks and are most often found in stretches of stream where there are lots of riffles.

I alwys carry a few hellgrammite flies that have been tied with heavy bead-chain eyes because the extra weight lets me better fish the swift riffles where smallmouths lie in warm weather. Get off to the side of the current and cast the fly upstream and across, then let it dead-drift back. That allows the fly to sink into deep holes where the fish are used to finding large hellgrammites.

~ Tom Keith

Concluded Next time!

Archive of Panfish


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