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               Summer 2005 Issue

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Lake Erie Fishing Maps

The Official
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 Super Summer Smallmouth
By Capt. Phil Cadez

Many articles have been written on the great walleye fishing the past few decades on Lake Erie.  More anglers are finding out how really great the smallmouth fishing is in the Western Basin of this Great Lake.  It’s always been one of the top “jumper” areas in North America.  It’s natural limestone rocky islands and reefs hold millions of these hard fighting sport fish.

The smallies are fat and sassy and will challenge your fishing abilities.  The “bronzeback” population sustains itself because the lake is so clean and loaded with food fish.  Their favorite diet consists of emerald shiners, shad and crayfish, but gobi’s are so plentiful the bas are gorging themselves and growing very hefty.  It’s hard to believe there’s so many smallmouth bass over 5 pounds in the lake.

Smallmouth are not a roving fish as are walleye or steelhead.  Most grow up and stay within a quarter mile or less the rest of there existence.  Walleyes have been know to move miles in a day or so.  A smallmouth is a territorial fish and will school in summer not moving much if they have food fish readily available.  The best time to fish for these “bronze brutes” is July thru October.  They’re eating machines and can be caught all day even in hot sun shining days.  Only a major weather front will shut them down for awhile.

A good fish locator will help you find the hard bottom structure that will insure good fishing for these tough fighters.  Start in 12 feet of water looking for drop offs that are near that might go down to 20 or even 30 feet.  The rougher the structure the better.  The fish will move to different depths because of water currents, food fish, rough water, high sunlight etc.  They’ll be somewhere near the drop offs keep looking.   One day they’ll be on the down side of the humps next day they might be on the up side of this structure.

 Once you have found the right areas to start fishing you can fish with artificial jigs, tubes, power grubs etc., or live bait.  In a light chop you can drift over the structure bouncing the bottom with jigs or especially tube jigs.  You might want to use at least 3/8 to 5/8 ounce jigs if you have to get down to lower depths.  Use only jig heads that allow you to place the plastic bodies or tubes the right way.  They will be completely inbeded in the tubes with only the hook exposed.  Tubes can be plain or have a salty flavor and be 3 or 4 inches in length.  Favorite colors are pumpkin seed, plum, watermelon, chartreuse, silver speckled or other combinations of these colors.

You need to be near the bottom so let the jig get down in the rocks.  Pop it with a jumping motion, then let it settle back down.  While letting it settle don’t leave much slack because the fish might hit it on the drop.  You’ve got to set the hook hard if you feel a bump.

Live bait fished near the bottom is probably the easiest and best way to catch these bronze brutes.  The tackle used consists of light spinning or bait casting combinations, rods are usually short but firm, 5 to 5-1/2 feet in length with graphite composition.  You can use a swivel on a 24 inch leader with a hook.  Either way you hook up this rig it will keep the slip sinker away from the bait.  A number 24 or 26 center drought Mustad hook tied securely to the end of the line is the most preferred rig.

If the wind is slight, and the drift is slow you can locate the right depth by dragging soft craws or leeches near the bottom.  If the drift speeds up use heavier slip sinkers.  Some anglers have the bait set and set the hook early while others open the bail and let the fish go with the bait.  Either method works providing the fish has the bait securely in it’s mouth.

 When you’re sure the fish has the bait, set the hook and hold on.  Softcraws are the best bait and are sold in local bait shops for approx. $5.00 per dozen.  Make sure you have at least 3 to 5 dozen per person, because sheepshead also love these tasty bait.  Hook the crawfish by the tail and try to keep it close to the bottom. 

 If you have located the fish near some structure you might make it with a buoy so you can keep drifting by it or you can anchor on or near the “honey hole”.  Anchor with a long line so that you can change position without starting the motor by taking in or letting out more anchor line.  When anchored, drop the crawfish to the bottom but keep the sinker 6 to 12 inches off the structure.  Again, you can set the hook early or better yet let the fish run with the bait.  Set your drags easy or you’ll break the line with the tension of these fishing bronzebacks.

 Keep moving till you start catching mostly jumpers.  You might have to move many times to find the right position.  When you find it you’ll know in a hurry.  I’ve seen lines in the water with five fish on at a time.  I’ve put three fish in the net at the same time.

 Experienced anglers that have visited Lake Erie’s super smallmouth areas agree that it’s one of the best areas in North America to get a trophy over 5 pounds.  We average 14 to 23 inch fish which goes 2 to 6 pounds.  The Ohio record is over 9 pounds caught near Kelley’s Island.  Please practice catch and release to insure great future fishing.

 If you want to get in on this super fishing, bring a good size boat or book a charter with a experienced guide.  You can reach me thru my web page at