Historically speaking, the smallmouth bass has long been regarded as a fall fish. From September through November, anglers targeting heavily-feeding, pre-winter smallmouth can tie into some pretty big numbers of pretty big fish. What many anglers don’t know, however, is that strong late summer smallmouth fishing is already going on across America, it is very accessible for tons of anglers and there's no reason to wait until the leaves change.
If there is one main difference between the late summer and late fall smallmouth bass bites, it is location. As mentioned before, late fall smallmouth are generally found in deeper water, especially near structure. In the summertime, smallies can be found shallow everywhere from lakes to rivers. The accessibility of these late summer bronzebacks is what makes this bite unique, and the tenacity of the fish is what makes it special.
Fishing transitional areas between shallow and deep water can help you to locate and catch more late summer smallmouth bass
In breaking down this summer smallmouth bite, it is important to highlight the differences between the two most popular water body types to target these fish: lakes and rivers. While there is a fair bit of overlap the fishing styles between the two, there is also a fair bit of nuance that can help to speed up the fish catching. If you are in need of equipment to set off on a smallie quest of your own, click here!
Late Summer Smallmouth on Lakes:
When we normally think of summertime smallmouth bass, we think about deep humps, cooler water and finesse fishing. It is true that all of these are hallmarks of summer smallie fishing, but they aren’t the end-all, be-all. Depending on conditions and time of day, you can find aggressive smallmouth up shallow. When this happens, it usually means that bait is in the area and the feeding is on.
In the dawn and dusk periods, it isn’t uncommon to see late summer smallmouth sliding up to the top of the water column attacking bait. Consider this your golden opportunity to experience smallmouth on topwater. Prop baits, walking baits and buzzbaits are all baits to consider in this situation. If you don’t find surface activity, or you encounter some waves, substitute the topwater for a jerkbait or a crankbait.
As noted before, smallmouth in late summer do like to spend the hottest parts of the day in deeper water to stay cool. However, they do not simply teleport there from the shallower waters where they feed at dusk and dawn. During the morning and early evening, smallmouth can be found on inshore ledges and other transitional areas between shallow and deep waters. Target these fish with spinnerbaits, jigs, medium-diving crankbaits and soft plastics like ned rigs and drop shots.
Fish baits like the 10,000 Fish Sukoshi Bug in rivers for late summer smallmouth bass
Late Summer Smallmouth Fishing on Rivers:
For hardcore river smallmouth bass anglers, the late summer is arguably the best time of year. Lower water causes fish to stack up in deeper holes and pockets,which makes it easier to locate them. It also makes rivers much more able to be waded in safely, allowing for more accessibility to the entirety of the river. Lastly, for some reason, in a time where most fish are lethargic because of the summer heat, smallmouth still have that energy and innate fighting ability that makes them a fan-favorite.
Reading water is the key to picking up bites in a river scenario. Slack water next to current has long been an ideal holding spot for bass, as it gives them access to bait without having to expend energy swimming in the faster-moving water. You can find these current breaks behind rocks or wood, near shorelines or external structures like bridges, dams or pipes. Additionally, on extremely hot days, it can’t hurt to try shaded areas. Because shad and minnows like to hide in these areas, late summer smallmouth are usually not far behind.
Lure selection for river smallmouth can vary greatly by river to river. Depending on river depth, jerkbaits or crankbaits can be killers, though you want to make sure the diving depth of your bait is appropriate for the river level. In shallower conditions, plastic grub, craw or ned rig baits perform really well rigged on a jig head or even a small casting jig. Topwater lovers are also in luck as poppers and prop baits are dynamite river baits, especially when fished in the early morning or dusk timeframes.
Updated August 3rd, 2022 at 11:48 AM CT