By Nick Simonson
As the water warms and smallmouth bass slip into summer patterns, a good search-and-target process will help better connect anglers with bronzebacks. Utilizing a fast-moving spinnerbait will cover likely areas quickly and can entice some summertime strikes from brown bass. However, when fish chase and nip at these offerings, having a second rod loaded with a slower bait can help connect with fish that don’t commit to the speed and flash of a spinnerbait. Set a baitcaster and spinning rod aside for summer smallmouth angling and rig them with a spinnerbait and a soft plastic to connect with fish.
Spinnerbaits help cover water, give off a pulsating vibe, and imitate young-of-the-year fish to trigger reaction strikes in bass. Work them along weed edges, rocky embankments or roll them down underwater breaklines to connect with staging smallmouth bass and adjust the speed as necessary for the best possible bite on each retrieve. It is likely that in the warmth of summer, aggressive smallies will slam these baits. Single-bladed offerings are more subtle and will get hits when slow-rolled down the face of those structural items.
Gaudy spinnerbaits with many blades – including multiples of two, three or four – represent fleeing baitfish or fry-eating raiders like bluegills. When worked fast, they’ll trigger a response that sometimes connects with smallies, but other times will just elicit a bump from a male fish chasing would-be predators from his ball of developing fry, or a semi-aggressive strike from a recovering female coming out of the post-spawn doldrums. When fish miss the hook, don’t take it as a bad sign, simply go back to the area the strike came from with something a little more subtle. Smallmouth are often known as a “second-chance” species, that will hit a bait a couple of times before they get wary, and a different bait often helps convert fish that miss the faster-moving option.
After a bump on a spinnerbait, but no successful hook-up, fling out a soft plastic offering beyond the strike zone and work it back through the area from where the first strike came. Whether that bait is a tube, craw, shad, or soft stick is up to the angler, but it should be worked slowly through the place where the initial strike came from on the spinnerbait to maximize its attractiveness to an already distracted fish. Texas-rig the offering and scoot it through the structure that is most likely holding the fish that chased the spinnerbait out of the area. Give the lure a couple of casts through the observed holding zone, giving the fish a chance to reset after the recent chase and come back to where it was staging, and let the more subtle lure do its job – especially if it’s a do-nothing offering like a Senko or another slow-falling bait with a natural shimmy. Just watch the line for a slight tick to signal a take and set the hook hard.
An additional perk to having a second rod rigged and ready to go with a soft plastic in summer is that a co-angler can offer a bait up to follow-up smallmouth. Oftentimes, a hooked bronzeback will trigger a feeding frenzy and other brown bass in the surrounding area will rush in to see what all the commotion is about when the first fish gets hooked. Have a second angler in the boat grab the soft plastic and pitch it out to where the first fish is running near the boat when another bass comes in for a look. Odds are a quick double will be a possibility, especially entering the heart of summer when bass get more competitive for food and this follow-up phenomenon becomes a more regular occurrence.
Having this fast-and-slow pairing ready for a favorite smallie water will help cover water, figure out where fish are holding and better connect anglers with bronzebacks. While spinnerbaits will haul in their share of big bass, they can be followed up with a more subtle presentation to entice those fish that are being territorial, or just aren’t as interested in a lure that comes steamrolling by. Put this one-two punch together and get the best of both worlds when it comes to catching brown bass this season.
Featured Photo: Smallmouth bass that don’t commit to fast moving spinnerbaits can often be caught on a follow-up cast with a soft plastic, like this 18-incher launded by the author with a tube. Simonson Photo.