It's no secret that Indiana has some great smallmouth bass fishing. This was a fact I learned early upon my arrival to this state. The lakes to the north and the creeks and rivers throughout, provide anglers with many oppurtunities to catch not just numbers of smallies but trophy smallmouth bass as well. Most of Indiana smallmouth waters are well documented while others are still somebodies little secret but there is a lake in the south where I have noticed an increase in smallmouth activity, for me at least. Patoka lake. This lake has been giving up some good smallmouth bass in the last few years. I have personally landed a few but I have been told by DNR agents that other anglers had been catching more smallies as well.
A few years ago I landed my first Patoka smallmouth, several fell for my carolina rigged Paca Craw. I mentioned my luck to a guy at the ramp and he looked at me like I was crazy and said he didn't know there were smallmouth bass in Patoka. I wasn't surprised about catching the smallmouth until he told me that and then mentioned he had grown up fishing Patoka and had never even heard of a smallmouth bass. I was beginning to wonder if he believed me. Since then I have landed several nice smallmouth bass on Patoka lake. On my next trip to Patoka I was checked by DNR and I asked them if they had heard of any smallmouth being caught and they laughed and told me that they had been hearing of some good smallmouth being caught and even told me what a lot of folks were catching them on, a carolina rigged plastic craw.
It was at this time that I realized that maybe there were more smallies in Patoka than we know and it would take changing techniques in order to fully understand just how many are there. I still target largemouth on Patoka but can catch some smallies here and there if I change tactics a little to target these largemouth cousins. This article will focus on tactics that can help you catch more smallmouth bass on this great reservoir known mostly for its great largemouth bass fishing.
Smallmouth bass tend to live a different lifestyle than do the largemouth. They like clear water and unless spawning tend to hang out in or near deep water. Smallmouth bass also like rocks but will relate to wood on occasion so never rule out lay-downs or logs. Small mouth seem to relate to cover more than hunker down in it like a largemouth. If a smallmouth is feeding he may be caught next to a big stump or log but more times than not it was cruising and just happened to be next to that cover searching for food when your presentation happened to streak by it.
My favorite way to catch a few Patoka smallmouth bass is a jerkbait. Jerkbaits can produce year round on smallmouth bass because they love to suspend just offshore over deeper water and there is no better way to target these bass than with a suspending jerkbait. Smallmouth bass love rock but standing timber will do and when you have standing timber along a rocky shoreline all the better. Jerkbait fishing seems to be a simple technique to master but there is a lot more to it than it seems.
The market is full of jerkbaits but any will do as long as it runs true and that includes old school jerks like the original floating Rapala. The smithwick rogue is a great jerk bait and has been for many years and they have even created a new rogue called the perfect 10. The perfect 10 is the perfect jerkbait when targeting suspended smallies. Many times, when fishing in deep water for suspended bass, the water is clearer than much of the rest of the lake. When the water is clear I like to work my bait down to ten feet before starting my cadence back to the boat.
The cadence is everything when it comes to a jerkbait. The colder the water the slower the cadence. My favorite cadence is twitch-twitch- 1 second pause then twitch with a 2 to 20 second pause before starting over. Yes you read that correctly. When the water is cold, say below 55 degrees, a long pause may be needed but keep in mind that smallmouth are much more at home in cold water than largemouth. I have seen when smallmouth want a short pause or even a constant twitch with no pause on those sunny winter days when the water warms up a few degrees.
Another great way to chase Patoka bronzebacks has to be with the Zoom Magnum Finesse worm texas rigged. Smallmouth love chunky baits and the Zoom Magnum Finesse fits that bill perfectly. This texas rigged worm can be fished at all depths and is a great way to probe the depths for rocks and stumps that smallies love to hang around. This is the perfect way to fish those rocky banks that drop quickly into deeper water. With a heavy bullet weight you can keep in contact with the bottom as you work the worm back to the boat. This presentation works great when the smallies are just kind of hanging out not feeding. I believe it causes a reaction strike as the worm falls by a resting smallmouth bass. Keep the colors simple, black on cloudy days and green pumpkin on sunny days.
There are times when smallmouth hang out right along with largemouth around shallow cover ambush style. I usually find out they are doing this while flipping for largemouth and I catch a couple smallies. I like to add a punch skirt to my Zoom Magnum Finesse worm when this happens. You can also just add the worm to a jig as a trailer. The bulky profile really seems to trigger more bites from smallies for some reason.
I mentioned the carolina rig in the opening paragraph but mention it last as a way to catch Patoka smallmouth only because I really don't like to fish the c-rig that much but it does work and I should fish it more often. A great bait for the carolina rig is the Netbait Paca Craw. This craw is a great bait for the carolina rig. It has a lot of action and looks just like a crawfish. The front half of the Paca Craw is hollow and allows for a rattle, scent or even a lindy float. The lindy float is a perfect fit for the hollow cavity in the Paca Craw and really helps the bait float up keeping it off the bottom as you drag the rig through likely smallmouth cover.
It's no secret that Indiana has some great smallmouth fishing but most of that is in the many rivers and creeks that flow throughout the state. It might be a little bit of a secret that Patoka is home to some great smallmouth bass and with a little work can be enjoyed along with the great largemouth fishing that Patoka is known for. Smallmouth are not near as plentiful as the largemouth but they are there and if you ever tangle with an open water smallie you too might just put in the work necessary to catch a few of these great bass.
SHAKAMAK STATE PARK BASS ON A SCUM FROG
SHAKAMAK STATE PARK LARGEMOUTH
SCUM FROG ON THE SCUM
can sometimes prove to be a futile endeavor leaving one to wonder
where did they all go? During one such outing, at Shakamak State Park, I found myself searching shallow and deep, shade and sun, grass
and rock, deadfalls and standing timber for any bass willing to take
the bait. I had decided that the bass just were not in a feeding mood
but I was. I eased into a cove and pondered my predicament over a
cold drink and turkey sandwich. I had searched every possible hiding
spots in that lake and wondered what it would take to salvage the day
after such a long trip to enjoy some of the great bass fishing
Shakamak State Park has to offer.
drifted deeper into the shallow cove and as I approached the
shoreline I began to hear a sound I had not heard since I was a boy
fishing farm ponds in Tennessee. Even though the sound brought on a
wave of memories I had failed to benefit from those memories until
that moment when I realized the bass were in the only cover I had not
explored. The scum!
I had just the
bait for this presentation and thought about those days so long ago,
on those scum covered ponds as I tied the appropriately named Scum
Frog to my line. The sound that jogged my memory so vividly was the shlump sound of a bass attacking a frog or insect that had
landed on top of the thick scum that lined much of the shoreline and
covered the backs of coves. The scum provides a perfect ambush point
as well as shade and cover for the bass.
I eased the
boat in position and made my first cast with the Scum Frog and landed
a nice 14 inch largemouth. It was a great feeling after fishing so
long without a strike. I enjoyed several hours catching bass on the
scum. The Scum frog is a perfect bait for this type of fishing. It is
easy to cast with its weighted body but still easily rides on top of
the scum and through thick weeds that grow in the shallows. The
double frog hook tucks neatly into the body. This design allows you
to throw into the thickest scum and weeds without hanging up or
fouling the bait. On this day I actually would throw the scum frog
into the grass up on shore and ease it out to the scum. The bass were
tucked tight against the shore beneath the scum in only inches of
water. The body of the scum frog is a very soft pliable plastic that
collapses when the bass strikes which completely exposes the double
hook for great hook-sets and fewer misses.
frogging for bass cast your frog as close to shore as possible. Many
times the strike will come when it hits the water, so be ready.
However, many times you have to work the frog across the scum to get
a strike. It is amazing how well bass can detect the slightest
movement. Sometimes a very small twitch is all that is needed but other times a
more aggressive approach will trigger more strikes. Always pause your
frog in the open water next to the scum. Many times a bass will
follow your frog out to the open water before smashing it and many
times you see the bass moving underneath the scum following your
frog. This can be hard on the nerves so keep your composure when the
bass strikes and allow it to take the bait. If you are new to
topwater bass fishing you will probably, like we all did, miss a few
fish. If you set the hook too soon you can pull the bait from the
bass' mouth. This can be hard to do because when a bass erupts on
your frog your reaction is to set the hook.
bass, especially in the scum, requires some heavy tackle. A heavy
action rod and 65 pound braid works great for pulling bass from the
scum. The scum is thick and often ends up on your line with the bass
and a light rod or line just can't handle the weight. When a small
bass is tangled in the scum the fight can be less than spectacular
but when you hook a good one the scum does little to hamper the fight
as the bass frees itself from the scum and heads for deeper domains.
The lakes at Shakamak are full of snags and it takes a heavy set-up
to keep the bass from finding one.
The lakes at
Shakamak is full of lay-downs and standing timber as well as grass.
On this trip I found that the bass preferred the scum that covered
these lay-downs or the scum that was located near this cover. Bass
will cruise along under the cover of the scum in search of baitfish
but prefers to be close to deeper water and cover so that they can
move into it if danger approaches. The bigger bass came from the
narrow stretches of thick scum that lined the deeper banks where the
water underneath this scum was two to three feet. Most of the scum
was in the shallow coves so that's where most of the bass were caught
but when I came across the occasional deep scum line there was nearly
always a good bass lurking beneath.
Park provides great bass fishing with lots of different cover
available for the bass. On your next trip to Shakamak pack a heavy
weight rod rigged with some heavy braid and a scum frog tied on. If
you are having trouble finding the bass be sure to give the scum and
the frog a try and you might just be hooked on frogging for bass.