Patoka Lake Smallmouth Bass
It’s no secret that Indiana has some great smallmouth bass fishing. A fact learned early upon my arrival to the state. The lakes to the north and the creeks and rivers throughout, provide anglers with many opportunities 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 somebody’s 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.
A few years ago I landed my first Patoka smallmouth, several fell for my carolina rigged Paca Craw. When I got to the ramp a guy looked at me crazy when I mentioned the smallies. He said he didn’t know there were smallmouth bass in Patoka. I wasn’t surprised about catching the smallmouth until he told me that. He said he had grown up fishing Patoka and had never even heard of a smallmouth bass and I was beginning to wonder if he believed me. Since then I’ve landed several nice smallmouth on Patoka. On my next trip I was checked by DNR and I asked them if they’d heard of any smallmouth being caught and they laughed and told me that they had been hearing of some good smallmouth. They told me a lot of folks were catching them on a carolina rigged 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. Smallmouth 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. 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 is much more at home in cold water than largemouth. I have seen when smallmouth wants 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 is with a Zoom Magnum Finesse worm texas rigged. Smallmouth love chunky baits and the Zoom Magnum Finesse fits that bill perfectly. Fish the texas rigged worm at all depths. It’s 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. Keep in contact with the bottom with a heavy bullet weight. Work the worm slowly 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 of 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. I saved it for last because I don’t like fishing the Carolina rig. However, it does work and I should fish it more often. 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.
It’s no secret that Indiana has some great smallmouth fishing. Most of that is in the many rivers and creeks that flow throughout the state. It might be a secret that Patoka is home to some great smallmouth bass. Smallmouth bass can be caught, with a little work, along with the largemouth that Patoka is known for. Smallmouth are not near as plentiful as the largemouth. But they are there. If you ever tangle with an open water smallie you might put in the work necessary to catch a few.