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Fish Species of the Boundary Waters

Smallmouth Bass

Pound for pound, the smallmouth bass may be the best fighting freshwater fish around. Locating a school of smallmouth may provide some of the best excitement the Boundary Waters has to offer. Early in the spring they can be found in shallow water, 4-10 feet, as they prepare to spawn. After the spawn, smallmouth remain in the shallow water and can be found anywhere from shore to 10 feet of water. It isn't until late in the summer that they move out to deeper water, 10-20 feet. No matter what time of year you are fishing for smallmouth you will locate them over a rocky bottom. Try fishing rocky points and drop-offs near shore.

  • Shallow running crank baits and rapalas.
  • Spinner baits, Mepps spinners and buzz baits.
  • Surface lures like the Pop-R.
  • Lead-head jigs tipped with twister tails or leeches.
  • Artificial worms.

Key in on rocky areas no matter what time of year. Surface fishing can provide some added excitement while spinner baits may provide more fish. Leeches can be particularly helpful during slow times. Popular colors include gold, black, silver, and chartreuse.

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Reader Input - Add Your Thoughts or Advice

Is there anything else we should know about fishing for smallmouth? Do you have a special lure or technique? Let's hear your tips and advice.

Patrick W.: Fly-fishing is another really good way to catch smallmouth when they are in shallow water. I never visit the BWCA without my fly rod.
RJ: No self-respecting smallmouth can turn down a leech. Try one on a floating jighead rigged a foot below a good sized splitshot. Fish the shallow rocks from late May through the middle of June. Expect to snag lots of rocks, but every time that jig pops free expect a fiesty bronzeback to smack it.
Henby: Suspending crankbaits such as the Smithwick Rattling Rouge have convinced a few bigguns to bite during a cold front.
Hill: The last time we were in the BWCA, we caught a ton of smallies on Rebel crawdad lures and soft plactic craws texas rigged. the best spots were at the bottom of running water around the boulders and rocky areas, like were a lot of the portages are. Talk about fun!

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