By Dr. Hal Schramm

“Smallmouth bass in the spring want to kill things,” shared northeastern tournament angler Ty Spade. “And the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania is the place to go for smallmouth. It is the only place where I can promise 40 to 50 fish days and consistently fill the promise.” 

Plan A: Spade finds pockets and areas protected from the current and uses a BOOYAH spinnerbait and a YUM Pulse as search baits. “Smallmouth are aggressive when guarding the bed,” said Spade. “Sometimes they eat the spinnerbait or swimbait, but they often chase it, so they are good tools for finding concentrations of fish.” When Spade finds a bunch of bronzebacks, he drops the Power Poles and casts bright-colored or white YUM Vibra King Tubes or a Texas-rigged YUM Christie Craw under a 3/8-ounce weight. “I use the heavy weight to drag the bait through the nest; it seems to get their attention better,” offered Spade.

Plan B: Spade finds pre-spawn smallmouth outside spawning pockets or in deeper, faster water adjacent to slack-water spawning areas. His weapon of choice is a Smithwick Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue, but on any given day a white or white/chartreuse BOOYAH Double Willlow Spinnerbait or a YUM Pulse Swimbait in natural colors may get the job done. 

Pro’s pointer: When fishing a jerkbait, throw slack line after the twitch. You can make jerkbait turn almost completely around, and that’s when smallmouth kill it. 

Kentucky Lake, Kentucky and Tennessee; spawning largemouth

This 160,000 acre, north-flowing Tennessee River impoundment spans both Kentucky and Tennessee. Bassmaster Elite rookie Alton Jones, Jr. likes to catch big bass, and the best way to do that is fish bedding bass. Recent record floods have raised and muddied the water. Jones advises heading to the north end of the lake to get cleaner, cooler water where the largemouth are still spawning.

Plan A: “Start your search in the main creeks (coves) and main lake pockets, then look for the clearest water you can find,” Jones shared. “Then zero in on hard bottom sand and gravel areas. In areas with clay bottom, focus on stumps or other large cover.” When he finds a bedding bass, Jones starts with a YUM Christie Craw. If the Christie Craw doesn’t excite the bite, Jones pitches a YUM Bad Mamma to the fish. “I like natural colors,” Jones said. “A lot of anglers use white so they can see the bait. I prefer the natural colors because it allows me to catch bass others may not be able to catch. When I can’t see the bait, I watch the bass.”

If the fish are spooky, Jones picks up a spinning rod and casts a weightless, wacky-rigged 5-inch YUM Dinger to every light or dark spot he sees. “A weightless Dinger gets more bites. I also get more bites wacky rigged, but I switch to Texas rigged when I’m fishing in cover,” counseled the Texas pro. “Don’t work the bait too much and watch the line.”

Pro’s pointer: “Look for a ‘hot pocket’. If you are finding spooky fish or only males, keep searching. Hot pockets will have females with males. You can catch a super limit in 30 minutes. Always be looking for that hot pocket; never give up.”

Kerr Lake, North Carolina and Virginia; spawn and post-spawn largemouth bass

Aka Buggs Island, this 50,000 acre border lake offers plenty of water to fish. “Kerr is fishing strong right now,” said an enthusiastic Dylan Fulf. “Twenty pounds is a good sack, and most of the largemouth are post spawn.” The young pro offers some intel to help you shrink the big lake and put some fish in the boat.

Plan A: Head for Nutbush Creek and find areas with a lot of buttonbush. Spawners and post-spawners will be in the same area. Concentrate on the deepest bushes you can find, but most water will be only about 2-feet deep. Fulf relies on a ½ ounce BOOYAH Boo Jig dressed with a green pumpkin YUM Christie Craw trailer. “The narrow head of the Boo Jig helps get through the gnarly bushes better,” commented Fulf. “Fish the outside first, then go to the middle of the bush. Cover a lot of water; the fish will tell you what to focus on.”

Plan B: “If you are catching small males, it’s time to look for post-spawn females,” said Fulf. “These fish will hold on secondary points for a couple weeks before heading to their offshore summer haunts. Look for short points that end at 8- to 15-feet deep before dropping off and have a hard bottom of gravel or shell. The fish will be in small groups.” Fulf entices bites with a citrus shad Bomber Fat Free Shad or a Bandit 300. If the crankbait doesn’t draw bites but tells you the bottom is hard and rough, drag a BOOYAH Pigskin Jig with a Christie Critter trailer or Carolina rig a 10 inch YUM Ribbontail in a color with a little flash like Morning Dawn.

Pro’s pointer: Don’t go lighter, go heavier when flipping bushes to trigger a reaction strike.

Beaver Lake, Arkansas; post-spawn smallmouth and spawning largemouth and spotted bass

This scenic 28,000 acre White River impoundment nestled in the Ozarks in northwest Arkansas offers anglers largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass. The peak of the smallmouth spawn is over, but the largemouth and spots are just getting revved up, according to FLW Tour pro Zack Birge. The lake is above normal pool, which presents some challenges. Here’s how Birge deals with it.

Plan A: spawning largemouth and spotted bass. Because of the high water, the fish will spawn in the 8-foot range and beds will not be visible. This lake has heavy tournament traffic. That never makes bites easy to come by, but the young pro uses it to his advantage. “Fish near tournament release sites,” encourages Birge. With beds not visible, Birge relies on a floating worm to pull bass up from their beds; methiolate is a good color on Beaver. “If the bass eat the floating fake food, set the hook. If they just look at it, carefully mark the spot and come back a half hour later with a Texas-rigged YUM Bad Mamma and saturate the area,” advised Birge.

Plan B: Birge searches long, windy points to find post-spawn smallmouth. He starts his search with his boat in 40 feet and moves up slope. Birge excites the bite with a 3 to 4 inch swimbait like a YUM Money Minnow on a 1/4-ounce ball head jig. “Let the swimbait sink and swim it along the bottom,” said Birge. Schooling smallies are a common site at Beaver after the spawn. “When they blow up, fire the swimbait and start your retrieve immediately to keep the swimbait high in the water,” advised Birge. Birge opts for natural and clear or translucent colors in his swimbaits.

Pro’s pointer: When on Beaver, keep moving!