That's because unlike their cousins the largemouth bass which bites all winter, bronzebacks fatten up frantically all fall, then disappear into deep water to nearly hibernate through the cold months.
Large and smallmouth bass might be in the same genus, but they're far different in their living and feeding habits. We all know what largemouths like and where they like to be, but smallmouths are lovers of rocks and that's where they like to be, seeking out their favorite food: crayfish, along with leeches, aquatic insects, and minnows. So, you fish them in rocky areas, shorelines, riprap, reefs, and boulder piles.
Why go to the trouble when largemouths are almost everywhere, and pretty easy to catch? Because they're fighters! When a bronzeback latches onto your hook, you don't need to guess whether its there. They'll rip off line and lots of it, leap high and do so again and again, fight tooth and nail right up to the net. That's long after a largemouth has thrown in the towel and given up. And there are few greater sights than a smallmouth leaping high with the sun painting his bronze color into gold, and his red eyes glistening with anger. That can be addicting.
There's no question that Lake Erie is the states top spot for smallmouths. A couple of years ago, I went perch fishing off Old Woman's Creek using an ordinary perch rig of two snelled No. 6 hooks about six inches apart above a one ounce sinker baited with minnows. I was on a head boat and that morning caught just eight perch, but at the same time landed 10 smallmouths of up to four pounds. I didn't mind the few perch, and I certainly didn't mind the bass though I returned all but one that was throat hooked.
An old timer fishing nearby did, though. He put down his rod to eat a sandwich, and sadly watched the rod fly like a javelin at least 20 feet as a bass took hold.
You can catch bronzebacks all along Lake Erie, but the Bass Islands rank tops, and there's good sport in places like Sandusky Bay especially under onshore boat docks and rocky shore lines. The Ohio River is a close second, and the pools below the various dams have yielded up some whopper bass as have more of those rocky shores. A fair number of inland lakes have bass too, from Pleasant Hill Lake to Alum Creek and in reservoirs like Hoover and the Willard Upground.
Some of my favorite places for bass are rivers and creeks, places where I can wade and toss small lures in solitary splendor most days without seeing another fishermen. Lake Erie tributaries like the Huron, Vermillion, and Grand are very good spots and further south there's the Kokosing (a great little river), Ohio
Brush Creek, Great Miami and too many more to be named. Use small spinners, minature crank baits, and little jigs with twistertails, and you should do well. And enjoy a beautiful day in autumn scenery.
Hooks & Bullets:
The final tallies are in and it's now official - Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch fishing is going to be super in coming years. Surveys in the western basin indicate an exceptionally strong walleye hatch this spring, the second highest value on record, and the 2019 yellow perch hatch is the fifth year in the past seven that falls above the average.
The outstanding walleye hatch combined with the excellent 2015 and 2018 year classes will ensure an abundance of young walleye to complement the older and larger fish that make up the current population. Good news for the future.
Deer hunters interested in learning to field dress and butcher a deer are invited to attend a free informational workshop on Thursday, Oct. 17. The workshop will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Fitchville Conservation League Club House at 2623 Jennings Road, New London 44851. Interested individuals can register at https://apps.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife/educationregiser. Trained professionals will cover topics including field dressing, skinning, and butchering. It will be hands-on with parts held outdoors.
The Transportation Research Center, Inc. (TRC) will hold a lottery drawing for special white-tailed deer hunting opportunities on Thursday, Oct. 17. The hunts will take place on TRC managed property in Logan County. The drawing will take place at the West Mansfield Conservation Club at 700 South Main Street, West Mansfield, 43358. Registration begins at 5 p.m. and hunters must be at least 18 years old, and present a 2019-2020 hunting license and deer permit. Approximately 15 hunters and partners will be drawn. For more information, call Gary Comer at 614-644-3925.