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Smallmouth Bass - Location by Season

Smallmouth Bass - Location by Season

by Marvin PIRILA


Spring Smallmouths


Smallmouth bass remain nearly dormant until water temperatures approach 50° F.  At this time, bass will start to move to their spawning areas.  In streams, bass may begin migrating to spawn at early temperatures.

Fishing is difficult after spawning, because bass aren’t more concentrated.  The females, after recuperating, move to deeper waters.  Males move deeper after abandoning the fry.  If there is deep water near the spawning are, bass will move there.




Smallmouth bass areas are the most predictable this time of year.  Bass may remain in the same place for several months once they take up residence in a certain pool or around a particular structure.


Smallmouth bass love crayfish and crayfish are linked to specific locations.  Crayfish need rocks for protection and cannot move very far.

Smallmouth must move around in waters where baitfish is the primary food.


The depth that smallmouth bass retreat to depends on surface temperatures and direct sunlight.  The type of water also determines how deep you’ll find them.  Smallmouth may stay as deep as 25 feet in clear water, shallower than 12 feet in murky lakes due to oxygen levels, and in pools less than four feet in small streams.


Early Fall to Mid-Fall Smallmouth Bass


Smallmouth begin to spend more time to shallower waters.  The lower angle of the sun and cooler surface temperatures allow them to venture into shallower areas where food is more plentiful.


As the lake surface continues to cool, it eventually reaches the same temperature as the water below the thermo cline.  The temperature from top to bottom becomes the same.  This makes it tough fishing as bass can be found at various depths.


In rivers, smallmouth feed more as the water cools in the fall.


Late Fall & Winter


Smallmouth fishing becomes difficult this time of year as they move out of shallows into deeper water.  Sometimes you can find densely packed schools, but the bite is likely to be poor.


Smallmouth in streams may move to deeper pools for winter when their mid-fall locations are too shallow.  Fishing remains good as they continue to feed until water temperatures drop in to the low 40’s.


Tips to Catching Smallmouth


-Fishermen should fish using patterns that imitate key items in the diet of the smallmouth bus (crayfish, dragonflies, minnows, etc.)

-Shoreline structures, such as docks, drop-offs, rocks, and logs, are worth fishing for smallmouth.

-Fly-fishing is advantageous in areas where standard gear doesn’t work.

-Noise often attracts the attention of bass.

-Be patient – Let the bug sit still for a period of as much 30 seconds, give it a twitch.  If that isn’t working, try “popping” it with a sharp jerk or an erratic stop-and-go retrieve.  For streamers and other sub-surface flies, you should use the strip and stop, or a steady retrieve.

-Catching bass in still waters generally requires watching and waiting for surface action, then getting the fly into feeding frenzies in a hurry.

-Experiment to see what works best.


The greatest success is found by following the seasonal behavior of bass, replicating their feeding preference, and finding good structure.