Understanding Smallmouth Bass
The Basics of Fly Fishng For Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth bass,(micropterus dolomieui) are members of the sunfish family. Their original native range was basically in the
Mississippi River and Ohio River basins including the great lakes. They exist in the Tennessee River system as far south as
Alabama. Originally, they were not found west of about the center of the United States. They have been stocked by various parties
and means since the advent of the railroad and in most all cases, reproduce on their own. Now, they are found throughout the
west, mid-western and eastern United States in all but three states.
Males are generally smaller than the females, with grown males averaging about two pounds, and females about three to six
pounds. Like most all fish, the smallmouth bass growth rate is determined by the amount of food present in their habitat, and the
average water temperature. The average water temperature is a factor in determining the growing season of the smallmouth bass
as well as its food.
The color of the smallmouth bass can vary from lake to stream, stream to stream and lake to lake. They usually have a dark brown
back. The sides of the fish is usually a bronze to brown color. They have the nickname "bronze backs". Some anglers call them
brownies. In some water you will find they are tinted green. Their stomachs are a light yellow to white color.
The more you know about smallmouth bass and the food they rely on for their survival, the easier it is for you to catch them. The
Smallmouth Bass is a predator. They feed mostly on minnows, baitfish, crustaceans, aquatic and terrestrial insects. Where crayfish
are abundant, they usually comprise over two-thirds of smallmouth's food.
Although Smallmouth bass do school at times in certain types of water, they generally don't cruise around looking for food. They
are predators that like to hide and attack their prey. The wait for their prey to come to them and then attack the prey with a short,
sudden burst of speed. When they are schooling, they are usually working together to push schools of baitfish up to the surface
where they panic and become easy to catch prey.
Two things to always look for when your fly fishing for smallmouth is food and cover. For example, if smallmouth bass exist in a lake
or stream, rest assured that anywhere you find both rocks and crayfish, you will usually find smallmouth. You often have to
determine the depth of water the fish are likely feeding in. This changes with the seasons, water clarity, and available light.
Smallmouth bass found in rivers have to deal with current. Those found in lakes, generally don't have to deal with much current
and in some cases, practically none. As a general rule, river smallmouth have to consume more food than those found in lakes.
They spend a lot more energy swimming in current and they have to replenish it by taking in more food than bass in still waters.
River bass are almost always stronger than lake smallmouth. You will find that they have a different habitat from lake bass because
they hold in areas that break the flow of current. They tend to relate closer to structure. They tend to hold in the slack water out of
the current and ambush prey that has to deal with the current. Lake smallmouth bass also hide and attack their prey from cover,
but current doesn't play a role in it. There is an exception to that and it is that in man made lakes and reservoirs, discharges from
dams can creates current in the lake and/or reservoir. In those cases, the smallmouth may position themselves in slack water, out
of the current where they conserve energy and attack their prey. .
In most lakes and streams, the easiest time to catch smallmouth on the fly is during the pre-spawn season. The fish are usually
hungry and holding nearby the shallow water they will spawn in. Like most other fish, the spawning habits of smallmouth bass
greatly depends on the temperature of the water. The males begin building beds when the water averages and remains for a day
or two at about 55°F. The females bass will move to the beds shortly after it is finished. The actual spawning process will take place
at water temperatures ranging from 60° to 65°F. The females usually deposit about 7000 eggs per pound of body weight. During
this time, the male releases milt in the bed.
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Copyright 2015 James Marsh
Photo Courtesy of:Mark Karaba