You know the saying, “big things come in small packages” – that’s what comes to mind when anyone starts talking about smallmouth bass.
Usually people see the term “smallmouth” and underestimate them. When really, it’s all about the mouth. “Smallmouth” versus “largemouth” bass simply means that one has a larger mouth than the other. The jaw on the largemouth extends past the eye allowing for a larger opening. The smallmouth jaw does not extend past the eye.
Just because they may have smaller mouths than their cousins does not mean that the smallmouth bass is a small fish. They typically grow between 12 and 16 inches; with the world-record size holding at 11 pounds, 15 ounces. While that’s not breaking any scales, it’s a reputable size worthy of your attention.
Without a doubt, they are a very popular gamefish for anglers to target across North America. Here are the Top 5 Places To Fish Smallmouth Bass:
5 Lake Champlain (NY/VT)
Lake Champlain has the distinct pleasure of bordering both New York and Vermont, right on the border of Canada. This gives many local and visiting anglers great access to one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in North America.
The size and shape of Lake Champlain is very interesting – taller than it is wider. At its widest it runs 14 miles, but it’s over 100 miles long. It’s also one of the deepest lakes on our list, reaching depths of 400 feet in some spots. Anglers tend to stay near the Vermont shoreline as it has the shallow flats and bays that smallmouth bass enjoy. Carry Bay is one such bay on the Vermont side. Smallmouth bass can also be found near Plattsburgh on the New York side and Rouses Point in Canada.
Other fish available in Lake Champlain include Atlantic salmon, lake trout, rock bass, and largemouth bass.
4 St. Lawrence River (NY)
Many fishing tournaments have been held on the St. Lawrence River, targeting the healthy population of smallmouth bass. The grand river connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, flowing through both Canada and the United States, so there are tons of fishing spots for your smallmouth bass trip.
Among the places to cast your line, check out the bays off the river. These include Cape Vincent, Eel Bay, Alexandria Bay, and Chippewa Bay. Many anglers will head near Ontario, or on the U.S. side to Thousand Islands in New York. During spring and fall seasons the smallmouth bass bite is red hot!
Smallmouth bass usually grow to 5-6 pounds in the St. Lawrence River. Anglers can also target perch, muskies, panfish, pike, walleye, and largemouth bass.
3 Lake St. Clair (MI)
The state of Michigan offers fantastic smallmouth bass fisheries throughout its many lakes, including Lake Michigan, Grand Traverse Bay, and Saginaw Bay. Lake St. Clair is no exception.
The lake, which separates Canada and the United States, is 26-miles long and 24-miles wide. It is considered part of the Great Lakes system, connecting to Lake Huron via the St. Clair River, and Lake Erie via the Detroit River. Lake St. Clair has a surface area of about 430 square miles and averages 11 feet deep. These shallow waters are perfect for “smallies” hiding out.
Spawning season determines if the bite is hot. While smallmouth bass can be caught most of the year in Lake St. Clair, spring and fall are great seasons to target this desired fish. July through September is usually when they head for deeper water and hiding holes. They tend to school during the winter months and hide in tight groups for warmth. If you can find them, you need to be right on top of them to catch. But once you find them, they don’t move around too much.
Fishing for smallmouth bass on Lake St. Clair is a great way to spend the day. Anglers often reach the 25-pound limit in no time. When not catching smallmouth bass, fishermen and women also catch bluegill, rainbow trout, muskies, walleye, and northern pike.
2 Mille Lacs (MN)
Mille Lacs Lake is located in Minnesota, about 100-miles due north of Minneapolis. It’s recognized as “The Best Bass Lake in the U.S. for smallmouth bass” by Bassmaster magazine, according to millelacs.com. “Mille Lacs” translates to “thousand lakes” in French.
The lake is Minnesota’s second largest inland lake, offering over 130,000 acres of water for anglers, boaters, and swimmers. It’s considered a shallow lake, with waters reaching 42 feet deep. The bottom is filled with gravel and rocks, especially toward the southern section of the lake, creating a perfect habitat for smallmouth bass.
You can also catch walleye, pike, perch, largemouth bass, crappie, and perch at Mille Lacs.
1 Lake Erie (MI/OH/PA/NY)
Some would say that the smallmouth bass fishery of Lake Erie is the best in the world. The above locations may disagree with that title, but it’s hard to make an argument against one of The Great Lakes. The location, size, and shape of Lake Erie creates the perfect habitat for smallmouth bass. It’s the southernmost of the Great Lakes and shallowest – creating temperatures comfortable for a large bass population. While the lake does measure over 200 feet deep in some places, the bass tend to stay near the rocky structure and hotspots 15 to 40 feet deep near the shoreline.
Lake Erie has access points across Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, allowing anglers access to consistent smallmouth bass fishing. The western basin near Toledo and Sandusky is one great spot targeting smallmouth bass, as is the opposite side of the lake near Buffalo, New York. Basically, make sure you’re fishing in waters less than 20 feet deep, and you’re sure to feel the strike of the bass.
Some other fish available when fishing Lake Erie include walleye, perch, rainbow trout, steelhead, and brown trout.
Fishing for Smallmouth Bass
No matter what lake you find yourself fishing for smallmouth bass, keep in mind the “smallmouth” part and use smaller hooks, any size between a 4/0 to 2/0 depending on bait and style of fishing. Bait also varies, but usually offerings of crayfish, minnows, or nightcrawlers yield good results. Because smallmouth bass are typically found in shallow waters, many anglers will get a kayak and get close to the shores.
Smallmouth Bass are found throughout North America, with higher concentrations in the Midwest and Great Lakes region. Wherever you find yourself looking to fish, let FishAnywhere hook you up with a local charter. These guides and captains will know the area and honey holes of smallmouth bass and can get you on the bite!
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