How to Fish For Smallmouth Bass in a Lake

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The degree of success you would likely experience when fishing smallmouth bass in a lake is heavily influenced by the time of the year and water temperature. Another determining factor is your proficiency; you would need to know how to fish for smallmouth bass in a lake.

How to Fish For Smallmouth Bass in a Lake

Fishing for smallmouth bass can be a fairly easy and fun activity to be enjoyed by both beginners and professional anglers alike. However, in the absence of proper techniques being deployed, it could begin to seem like quite a chore.

They are a range of techniques when it comes to fishing, and here are some that are specific to fishing smallmouth bass in lakes:

A man riding on his boat while fishing

Light Tackle Fishing

Light tackle fishing is based on the type of gear an angler uses. Light tackle gear has a test line of 20-25lbs which is adequate for fishing for smallmouth bass. This technique follows setting the drag to around 20 to 30% of the weakest line strength and once the fish bites, maintaining the same drag strength. This technique works well for smallmouth bass.

Fly Fishing

It is named “fly fishing” because of the type of lures used which resemble small insects that the fish preys on. The technique involves flicking the wrist back and forth initially and then tugging downward on the slack line when flicking the wrist into the back cast. The same motion is repeated for the forward cast, and then stopped when the cast gets to the desired distance.

Still Fishing

It is a simple technique that just involves putting your fishing line and bait in the water and waiting for the fish to find it. Also, known as still water fishing, it is a simple and effective technique suitable for beginners. It is a very adaptable technique because it can be done from a boat, a pier, or the bank of the lake.

It is worth noting that you should avoid using heavy lures. You should typically go for lures that weigh around an ounce so that they can easily move in the water.

Gear for Fishing Small Mouth Bass in a Lake

It is imperative to use the right gear when fishing in line with the particular technique being carried out. The type of equipment you use determines your success when fishing for smallmouth bass.

When you intend on getting fishing gear, the basics are:

  • Fishing line
  • Fishing rod
  • Fishing reel
  • Fishing lures

They are various types of each, so it is imperative to ensure that the type you opt for is specifically suited to fish this species.

Fishing Rod

Spinning rods are the recommended fishing rod to be used in fishing for smallmouth mainly because it has the spinning reels below the rod along with their rod guides, it loads up properly when casting and as a result, can be used to cast lightweight lures long distances.

An image of a man still fishing

Also, you should note that on spinning rods, the guides are huge and narrow towards the rod’s end. Since the guides are narrow this reduces the size of the coils and sends the line out straight. This process causes friction and in turn, to a certain extent slows down the casting speed.

The ideal length to use to catch this species is a 6-7 feet rod.

Fishing Line

Monofilament and braided lines are both adequate when it comes to fishing for this fish species. Mono lines are a more common type. It is made from a single thread of plastic and is highly cost-effective as well, making it more accessible.

What makes braided lines differ from monofilament lines is that it is made from more than one thread of material. It is a relatively new product and is stronger and thinner than monolines.

Fishing Reel

A 1000-size reel is very lightweight and portable too, making it ideal for fishing smallmouth. In addition, reels come as either right-handed or left-handed. There is a basic procedure when it comes to picking left or right-handed reels. If you are right-handed you should go with the left-handed fishing reel so that you can cast with your dominant hand and reel with your left hand.

This is the same process when it comes to picking a reel if you are left-handed. You should choose the right-handed fishing reel.

Fishing Lures

Fishing lures are artificial baits that mimic the prey of fishes. In this case, you use lures that imitate the appearance of this species’ prey like a crayfish imitator.

Live baits increase your chances of getting a good haul as they are more lively. It is hard to resist the main thing. However, generally, both fishing lures and live baits do a decent job in attracting this fish to your hook.

Ideal Conditions to Fish For Smallmouth Bass

This fish species can be found along waters that are quite shallow at depths around 20 feet. When in search of food, they mostly move to the deeper parts. They can also be found around rocky parts of lakes.

The optimal time to fish for this species is in late fall or early spring, which is around the middle of April to the middle of May. During winter they move deep into the lake and come out to shallow waters in spring as the temperature warms. Fishing for this species in fall is the most favorable time when compared to summer. In summer the big smallmouths spread out and become harder to find.

A man throwing his fishing rod

Smallmouth bass is most active early in the morning from dawn to around mid-morning. They are also active from late in the afternoon from around 3 hours to sunset and stretch along to dusk. They are most active around these times because of the reduced light that they exploit to prey on food like crayfish and shad.

How to Locate Smallmouth Bass in Lakes

Smallmouth bass can be found in various areas of a lake chiefly depending on the season. Usually, what dictates their position is the location of bait in the water, since baitfish typically migrate seasonally as well. There are three major seasons when smallmouth can be found:

  • Summer
  • Spring
  • Fall


Rising water temperatures imply that spawning is over and smallmouth bass would likely be in areas off the bank. You would likely find smallmouth bass in offshore humps that are surrounded by deep water.

At other times, if wind squeezes current between islands, you can be sure to find smallmouth bass lurking to prey on baitfish that would be funneled.


Right up to the point before spawning begins, you would likely find smallmouth bass in features and structures that have some connection to the bank. You would find them in bays with flats that have some protection from varying water conditions, high winds, and turbid water.

Any bay that has some measure of sand, boulders, or gravel would very likely have smallmouth bass lurking around.


Cooling temperatures are the perfect time for smallmouth bass to begin another run at the bank. Prime locations would be areas where the river mouth dumps into the lake. These areas usually have baitfish aggregating around a flat of gravel and sand. The presence of food there is a major attraction for smallmouth bass.


The smallmouth bass, otherwise known as the ‘Brown Bass’ is a common and one of the toughest fighting fish in North America. With the techniques mentioned coupled with your own experience, you can easily get a good haul in no time.