Go For The Bronze – Smallies in Michigan

Thanks to outdoor blogger, Dan Donarski, for providing another insightful look toward successful fishing in Michigan. Read this and similar articles here on Pure Michigan Connect!

Go For The Bronze! As the leaves change smallmouth bass start to get seriously aggressive in Michigan.

Let’s be quite frank– smallies make largemouths look like overweight chumps. Think sculpted middleweights versus blubbery heavyweights. Rivers only seem to enhance this difference. Think rivers like the Menominee, Au Sable, Grand and Kalamazoo. And don’t forget about the in-flows and out-flows on lakes like St. Clair or the impoundments on rivers like the Muskegon.

Most anglers seem to have given up on bass when the leaves start to change. Big mistake. That golden tinge on the aspens means that the smallies have answered the bell. Water temperatures have cooled just a tad, the fish have put on weight during the summer, and now, in autumn, they are having a down-right gluttonous feast.

Rivers certainly have their share of bass structure. Rocks, wing dams, fallen timber and scour holes name but a few. Rivers also have one other piece of structure unique to them alone. That structure is called current. By playing the current first, and using the standard types of structure as the icing on the cake, you’ll reap higher success.

Eddies and current breaks or seams are two of the most important. Smallies often lie in eddies to rest. That doesn’t mean that they won’t eat, but it does mean that they are a bit tired and won’t chase anything thrown at them very far or fast.

They also hang just off the main current, in a break, or where two currents meet forming a seam. In these locations the bass are actively on the prowl. Hunger brings out the hunting instinct in bass so they will move, quickly, to intercept anything that looks like a good meal. Think of a buffet table on a quick-running assembly line and you’ll have a good picture of what this smallmouth table looks like.

Fly-rodders should come with an 8-weight outfit that includes a disc drag reel and matching floating line. Don’t worry, if you need to get deep a small piece of splitshot will do fine. Forget the fancy and expensive leaders, a 10-foot section of 8-pound test does just fine.

You’ll need to have a selection of streamers that imitate the local baitfish and a few that come in hot colors (yellow and chartreuse seem to really excite these fish). Crayfish imitations, along with some leech patterns, rounds out the basic selection. Leave room for a few Wooly Buggers, however. These impressionistic flies are smallmouth candy.

Traditional smallmouth spinning or bait casting tackle for lakes does quite nicely on rivers, too. A 7-foot medium action rod with matching reel spooled with 8- to 10-pound mono is all it takes.

Fall smallies really enjoy munching on colorful plugs. Shad Raps and shallow running Raps in hot colors as well as bronze or gold, and smaller suspending stickbaits in similar colors should be in your tackle pack. Natural finishes work but hot colors seem to work best.

In eddies you’ll want to work the fly or plug slow. When fishing flies a short pulse-pause, or a simple slow crawl is perfect. With plugs you’ll want to get into a short jerk-long pause rhythm.

In the seams and current breaks a quicker, more erratic retrieve is called for. Fly anglers should cast cross current so the fly swings from the fast to the slower water. Then a short staccato pulse retrieve should be worked back to you in the seam. Plug flingers should also cast cross current and let the plug swing while retrieving very slowly. When the plug reaches the seam, alternate between a slow, steady retrieve and one that throws in a number of medium jerks mixed with some short pauses.

Dan Donarski is an award-winning journalist/photographer and author. He specializes in the outdoors and adventure travel. When he’s not out and about he lays his head in Sault Ste. Marie.