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The Big Bang
By Ron Anlauf

If you’re looking for some big August fun you might think about heading for a small river. Even some of the smaller streams can have solid populations of smallmouth bass that for the most part are overlooked and under fished. Smallies are always fun to catch but when you throw in a scenic setting and the chance that you might have it all to yourself the good times are about to roll. Now is when the action can really heat up and is one of the best times to be on a river.
While there are plenty of good ways to hook up with active smallies; the most exciting method is to get them to go on top. A big smallie smashing a topwater is absolutely thrilling and is about as much fun as you can have. Top water baits are always a good option but mid to late summer is definitely prime time for working the surface. Jerk baits like the smaller Zara Spooks or twitch baits like a 1/4oz Skitter Pop, or even a buzzbait like Northland Tackle’s 1/4oz Buzzard are perfect for working on top. Even though you can run into four, five, and even six pound bass you’re usually better off sticking with smaller sized baits. The smaller lures can still make plenty of commotion but are easier for a smallie to grab and hang on to. Jerk baits like the Spook are designed to be worked with a steady by jerks retrieve which causes the bait to swish back and forth. To get it started; point the rod tip at the lure and sweep it down towards the water which will cause the bait to swing to the side. Quickly pick up the slack while lifting the tip back up toward the lure and sweep it down again. With a little practice you’ll be able to create a rhythmic back and forth action that can drive bass nuts. The Skitter Pop can be reeled in with a twitch, twitch, twitch, retrieve that causes it to pop, pop, pop and spit water out as it goes. You can also combine it with an occasional stall and wait. There’s no real wrong way to do it, just as long as you’re getting hit. The buzzbait has to be brought in with a quick steady retrieve and is a great way to cover water and find active fish. A productive starting speed is just fast enough to keep the lure up on top. St. Croix’s model LTBC68MXF Top Water Legend Tournament series rod combined with an Abu Garcia’s Revo Premier reel loaded with ten pound test Berkley Trilene Maxx is a perfect match for working top waters as the rod has a light enough tip to allow you to cast the smaller baits.

Big Smallmouth can be a sucker for top waters in August

Big Smallmouth can be a sucker for top waters in August

Likely hangouts almost always include some rocks and the more the merrier. Running top waters over any kind of rocks you can find will get noticed, and sooner or later get hammered. Most anglers will hit the shoreline rocks with a top water lure and is certainly a good place to start, but they just might be missing something. Mid stream is what we’re talking about and could be the secret to finding the heavy duty models. Instead of stopping your retrieve and making another cast make sure you work the bait all the way back to the boat. And don’t be afraid to make some casts directly to the center of the river, especially if you see some turbulence on top which would indicate a rocky bottom. I inadvertently uncovered the mid stream pattern by accident while fishing and talking with a buddy and not paying attention. While working a Skitter Pop on a small river in east central Minnesota my in-depth conversation was rudely interrupted by what sounded like someone dropping a bowling ball in the water. It was a big smallie that hammered the lure right at the boat, and what I at first surmised was a follower that picked up on the lure near the bank and then chased it out.

That is until it happened again and again, and when subsequent casts to the middle of the stream produced much bigger fish. Besides all of the rocks don’t overlook grass or weed beds which can be another hot spot, as well as any kind of fallen timber that creates a current break.
When you do get hit; try to hold off setting the hook until you’re sure he has the bait. If a fish hits and misses and you’ll have set too soon probably yanked the bait out of the strike zone and eliminated the chance for a second or even third strike. Given a chance; a fish that takes a swing and miss will come back once, twice, and even three or more times until it get’s hold of what it’s after. It’s not easy but if you can control yourself and wait until you know the fish has the bait you’ll hook a lot more of them.
Another exciting aspect of hooking into late summer smallies in shallow rivers is that they tend to go airborne just as soon as they’re hooked, and may do it again and again. When you hook a big fish you’ll probably have your hands full and if you’re lucky enough to get it landed; take a picture and let it go. A really big smallmouth deserves a good deal of respect and a quick release is the right thing to do. See you on the river.

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