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Rock on for Summer Smallies by  Ron Anlauf  PWT Champion Mille Lacs Lake  Fishing Guide
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Rock On For Summer Smallies 
 By Ron Anlauf  e-mail  ranlauf@ecenet.com

Smallmouth Bass are known to be homebodies, and usually never stray far from the nest. That may be so, but they do move, and the movements made amongst their home range can make them extremely difficult to pin down. Those movements can give smallies the appearance of being ghost like, as they only show themselves when they are darn good and ready. While they can never be trusted, there are some things you can do to help put the odds in your favor, or at least give you half a chance. The key to successful smallmouth bass angling is putting the right bait, in the right place, at the right time.Another key is doing it long enough to be there when the brown bombers decide to show up. Determining the right bait, place and time, depends on many things, including time of the year, and prevailing weather conditions. 
Ron Anlauf shows off a nice summer smallmouth
The author Ron Anlauf with a summer smallmouth
For most of the season, smallmouth location is relatively consistent. From early June through late September, their day to day whereabouts is pretty easy to nail down. One of the keys to location during this 
period (and good smallmouth water), is rocks, and lots of it. The more rocks the merrier, and the better your odds of finding exceptional smallmouth fishing. While rocks may be the answer, a good portion better be in shallow water. Plenty of rocks in the three to six range are the ticket, and can provide enough feeding opportunities to support a large population of smallmouth bass. Fewer rocks means fewer feeding opportunities, and fewer fish, period. 
The big attraction for smallies, when it comes to rocks, is the amount of crayfish they can hide. All those cracks and crevices play host to thousands of crayfish, which occasionally make the mistake of venturing out in the open where they become extremely vulnerable, and make an easy mark for smallies on the prowl. Crayfish make up a huge portion of the smallmouth bass diet, and are an absolutely must for sustaining any kind of a quality fishery. 
Knowing what smallies feast on should weigh in heavily when deciding on a presentation. Lures and baits that imitate the look and actions of a crayfish are top producers, and include tube jigs and crankbaits. Tube jigs have proven themselves to be one of the most consistent, can be counted on all season long. In fact, they are one of your best bets for fooling smallmouth bass of gargantuan proportions. Big smallmouth bass get big by being a little more careful than the rest, and may not fall for just anything you throw at them. A tube jig can make for a super finesse presentation, and may get smallmouth approval when nothing else will. Tubes can be rigged a variety of different ways, but it's hard to beat a using a jig with an exposed hook. Although you'll certainly run the risk of snagging up, it's a risk worth taking, and can definitely mean more fish hooked, and boated, in the course of a day. 
Bait Rigs Grubmaster with a tube jig
Bait Rigs Grubmaster
A slick set up includes threading a Berkley Power Tube over a Bait Rig's Slow-Poke Jig, in the 1/16 to 1/8 oz. size, instead of the usual lead head models. By contrasting the color of the Tube with the Slow Poke, you can end up with a two-tone effect that gives the bait a real unique look.
Good tube and jig colors should always include some crayfish patterns, like oranges greens and reds. Although color can make a difference, more often than not it's where you putt the bait that determines the outcome. Light tube jigs are more effectively fished with light equipment, as it is a finesse presentation. Light 
equipment means spinning gear, with medium light rods in the five and a half to six foot range, combined with smaller open faced reels, loaded with eight to ten pound test. My personal favorite is a 5'9" Fenwick HMG light action graphite rod, as it provides a superior sense of feel. Feel is important, especially when your tubing. Trying to distinguish between a rock and a fish can be difficult, and an angler needs all the help he can get. As previously mentioned, crankbaits are another good option, and can mimic a crayfish scrambling forcover. One of the best is the lipless variety, like the Rapala the lures of choice Rattle Rap from Normark. The Rattle Rap can be drug through the toughest neighborhoods, and do so without constantly hanging up. One of the keys tosuccessful cranking is to be constantly banging into the bottom, much like a spooked crayfish would as he tries to escape. While a lipless crankbait can run relatively clean, you are going to hang up occasionally,
but the rewards are worth losing a crankbait or two. 

Good cranking gear includes medium light baitcasting equipment, like Fenwick's 6' medium action HMX Trigger Stick, combined with an Abu-Garcia Fishing Equipment for Life TP3000C baitcasting reel, loaded with ten or twelve pound test line, abrasion resistance preferred. Fish that react to a crankbait aren't going to be scared off by heavier 
line, and the heavier line will help you get back baits that have unfortunately hung up.Sure there are other options, like topwaters for example, but tubes and crankbaits will keep you working with the right baits over ninety percent of the time. As mentioned earlier, pevailing weather conditions can have a definite effect on what kind of attitude you'll find the smallies in. Good attitudes usually coincide with steady weather patterns, and long warming trends. Bad attitudes on the other hand, are usually associated with cold fronts, and major weather changes. 
Wind is another weather realted consideration, and unlike largemouth, the presence of doesn't seem to be a detractor, as smallmouth can often be caught in areas being pounded by heavy waves. Fishing in aheavy wind can be trying a times, but don't let that stop you if you can help it, as some of the hottest action I've had has come during the onslaught of thirty mph winds, and two and three foot waves. See you on the water.

Ron Anlauf  e-mail  ranlauf@ecenet.com

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