Three Tricks for Catching Lethargic, Early-Season, Trophy Smallmouth Bass

Author: Joe Cermele / Source: fieldandstream.com It’s early spring—that funky time of year when the smallmouth bite isn’t dead but isn’t exactly on fire either. During...

It’s early spring—that funky time of year when the smallmouth bite isn’t dead but isn’t exactly on fire either. During the prespawn and spawning periods when the water is still chilly, success with brown bass has a lot to do with patience, being methodical in your presentation, and giving the fish a meal they can’t pass up no matter how lethargic they’re feeling. The beauty of early-spring bass fishing is that while bites may be fewer, you’re a lot more likely to connect with true trophies in the form of egg-laden females looking for some solid protein before taking to spawning beds, or heavy girls protecting their beds. If you struggle at this time of year—or don’t fish at all because you don’t think the bite’s on—these tricks will help you come tight on some big bronze long before your favorite summer popper bite kicks into high gear.

During winter, smallmouths often hole up in deep water with a soft bottom, and that holds true for both lake and river fish. In the early season, you’ll find these fish in those same winter haunts before the water is warm enough to prompt them to move shallow to spawn. These bass can be glued so tightly to the bottom that you won’t even mark them on your sounder, and it’s not uncommon for fish to have mud streaks on their bellies when you catch them.

They tend to be lazy, so presenting a bait that takes minimal effort for them to eat is key. It also doesn’t hurt to choose a lure that will kick up puffs of mud as it moves, like a sculpin or crayfish, to help draw attention.

Soft-plastic tubes shine in this scenario. Where you can get away with a long drift over a prime location, sometimes simply letting the tube slowly drag on the bottom works…

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