Picking favorites has its risks. Someone or something is going to feel excluded. People will disagree. However, when it comes to choosing my favorite species of fish to target, I say to hell with that and choose the Smallmouth Bass. The Bronze Bomber, Small Jaw, Freshwater Tiger, Bronzeback, Brownie. Call it what you want but, in my opinion, nothing beats the Smallie when it comes to fishing action.
I can still remember my first ever smallmouth. I was around 5 years old and was fishing with my Pop and my brother underneath the Rosedale Bridge on Balsam Lake. Generally, we fished with worms and a bobber but this morning my Pop had tied on a small Frog coloured Jitter Bug for me. As a hyper guy I jut loved casting the lure out and reeling it back as fast as I could. With a little instruction from my Pop I started to reel a little slower and pause every once in a while. I aimed a cast just past a small pocket of weeds and as I worked it back, I paused the bait by the weeds and BOOM, a 7-inch smallmouth smashed that lure like Roger Federer and the fight was on. This fish had moxie. It jumped, it made deep runs all the while sending pulsing head shakes up the line and into my soul. I finally landed it and woke up the entire shoreline in the process. After unhooking the fish with my Pop and brother looking on, I held it up by the jaw (like I had watched Roland Martin do), admired her beauty and let her go. From then to now I was hooked. On any given day smallmouth can be described as simple, elusive, marauding or aggressive.
I will venture to say anyone who has spent some time fishing for smallmouth has experienced one or all these scenarios:
Heart Pounding to Heart Breaking
It’s a slower day on the water. You have been working a shoreline for a few hours without much success. You spot what appears to be a “fishy” looking spot and cast to it. Just as you stop paying attention, huge smallmouth swipes your bait and its fish on. Before you can get a good hook set the fish bulldogs to the bottom, you start to crank the reel and before your line is tight, he has reversed direction and is on his way to the surface. Like something from a Seaworld show the fish launches itself 3 feet into the air, tail wagging and head shaking. Just as you are mentally calculating how big the fish is you notice your lure being flicked away like your dog’s chew toy. You crank your line praying he’s still on but alas there is no tension and Moby swims away. I still shudder when I think of a bass that did this to me on Lake Huron - I swear it was a 7 pounder...
You’ve pulled into your favorite spot. Could be a mid lake hump, might be a rocky shoreline full of cray fish or a huge weed bed with a nice line of cabbage in 10 feet of water. You beat your partner with the first cast and before you even get a full crank of your reel, ole small jaw is hooked. As your partner is getting ready to net the fish, he yell’s “look at the size of the fish following him” He tells you that you are on your own and shoots out his own cast and boom, he is hooked up to. As quickly as he can you release your fish, fire out another cast and man, you are into another one after another. It doesn’t last long but it’s a fishing story you will tell your grand kids about.
Weight Class need Not Apply
Your fishing off the dock. Maybe you are with the kids, maybe you are just having a quick break prior to dinner time. A steady diet of perch, rock bass and sunfish has kept you entertained but it has become a tad passé. You cast your bait a little deeper and sure enough you get a hit. With throbbing head shakes and deep runs you think “This is a big one”. Just as you begin to scan for a net to land this monster a 7-inch small mouth launches itself in the air. At first you are a bit disappointed but soon the fish changes your mind. This guy doesn’t know he is small, he continues to make mad rushes, clears the water with abandon and finally you get him in. Purely out of respect you unhook quickly and release all the while thinking, man that was fun.
I realize this isn’t a true comparison as I have not caught every fish in the world. Heck I haven’t even caught every fish in Ontario. But if anything, I hope this article has made you drool a little bit as you think to warmer times and casting a lure in search of a small mouth!