St. Clair’s Summertime Smallmouth
On this Body of Water, It’s a Game of Finders Keepers!
By: Simon Frost – as written for Canada’s Ultimate Fishing Annual 2006
Lake St. Clair is without question one of North Americas’ Smallmouth “Hot Spots”. With Detroit and Windsor on her shores this lake sees a large amount of traffic but continues to shell out not only big fish but large numbers of good fish.
Your choices of locations are as numerous as your presentations. You can begin fishing one of two rivers off the lake or you can fish weeds, rocks or flats. On any given day any or all of these locations can hold fish.
Trying to pick one method of fishing for Bass on Lake St. Clair is like trying to eat only one chip – it can’t be done. From weed beds to rock piles to roaming schools chasing bait this is one body of water you can catch fish on your favorite technique whether its Carolina rigging, jerk baits, spinner baits, tubes, grubs, top water, crank baits etc.
When starting out the most essential tools you will need are a good map – a high quality Sonar GPS combo and most importantly an excellent pair of sunglasses. Start off by slowly driving the area that you have picked to start. Look for weeds or rocks but also sudden changes in bottom density – sand to clay can and will hold fish. One key piece of structure to look for is just a dark spot on the bottom this simple change in colour can hold some great fish.
When scouting out the area you have chosen keep an eye on your graph. When you see a change on the graph you can put a weigh point on the GPS for that spot so you can go back and check it out later. Do not be afraid to input multiple way points. You don’t want to miss anything and you can always erase each point individually if you don’t like the spots or they turn out to be non productive. Odds are when you drive over a rock pile or something and you don’t put an icon on the GPS it is tough to find again to get back to and you can waste a lot of time looking.
The first bait I like to throw is either a Lucky Craft Pointer or a Jackall Mask 100. Both baits enable you to cover large amounts of water quickly. I start by retrieving the jerk bait with rapid snaps back to the boat then I start to change up the retrieve. Another great bait to cover water is a 1/2 oz to 3/4oz spinner bait. Chartreuse coloured is a top producer on this lake. This is where the polarized sunglasses are so important. Smallmouth are well known followers and with a good pair of glasses you will be able to see these fish follow your bait from a long distance. With the right lenses it will remove the glare from the surface and enable you to see into the water. I highly recommend the Solar Bat Mossback Green lenses. If with this technique I have seen a few followers but have no takers a simple colour change can produce impressive results.
The outfit I have had most of my jerk bait success with is a 2500 series spinning reel on a 61/2 to 7ft medium action spinning pole with a fast tip. The reel is spooled with 20lb braided line with a 12lb frog hair leader approximately 8 ft long. Many anglers use shorter leaders but I am a clear line junkie and if I can see it then the fish can so when I use braid I want it as far away from my lure as possible. Also with using a spinning rod I find I have better control on the bait and the fish.
When throwing a spinner bait I like to use a 7ft medium heavy casting rod with a extra fast tip and I like to spool it up with 14lb Bass Pro Shops XPS Fluorocarbon. This line has almost no stretch and is highly abrasion resistant.
If I have come across an area that looks good but I have not had any hits or seen any fish I don’t give up just yet. The fish just might be in a neutral mood so to completely cover an area rock pile or weed bed I slow down my presentation quite a bit. My next presentation to use is a 31/2 inch Schubert’s tube in a craw fish pattern. If the conditions are calm I will use 8 to 10 lb fluorocarbon and a 1/4oz jig head. Start by casting at your target weeds, rocks or even just the dark spots slowly work your bait back to the boat. Try different retrieves from small hops to swimming it along the bottom. This is one lake where colour does make a difference. I have seen fish swim away from a green tube and then crush a smoke tube. Experiment with colour starting with the basics light melon, smoke, and pumpkin coloured tubes but don’t forget to try different flakes.
With the normal clarity of the water being clear long casts are normally made. A 2500 series reel fully spooled with 100% fluorocarbon on a 7ft medium action rod with a fast tip will aid you in making extra long casts and with the longer rod when you get a hit you can pick up a lot of line on the hook set. One of my favorite lines to use is the 10lb Bass Pro Shops XPS Fluorocarbon.
With this technique your sunglasses are absolutely necessary. Without these you might as well be fishing with no rod. One trick that works very well on Smallmouth with this technique especially on Lake St.Clair is to watch for followers. What I mean by that is if you or your partner has hooked a fish try to watch the fish as it gets closer to the boat. Don’t be surprised if you see 3 to 20 fish following it in. Smallmouth are very curious and also very greedy and they will try to steel the bait from that fish. When you see this try to capitalize on it by throwing your bait preferably a tube right next to your buddies’ fish and let it sink down. A lot of times one of those followers will grab that bait. One really cool thing that could happen and has happened to me is this: After you hook a follower and you partner lands his fish have him throw at you fish and let the bait sink down. I’ve done this until we were both out of poles and had 8 fish in the boat.
I would highly recommend a trip to Lake St. Clair. Under the right conditions catching 50 to 100 fish is very possible using the technique that you are most comfortable with.
Special thanks to
Extreme Marine, Bass Pro Shops, Set the Hook, Schuberts Pro Lures, Minnkota, Humminbird, Bay City Marine, Fishing World