Swimbait Tricks for Spring Smallmouth Bass – Great Lakes and Beyond

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Prespawn Great Lakes smallmouth bass start sliding up on vast rock flats when water temperatures range between 40- to 50-degrees. Bass staging for the spawn are often spread out, so Bill McDonald opts to fish small swimbaits with a steady retrieve, which speeds his search over slower moping baits like a tube. 


Bill relies on letting the fish tell him how they want the swimbait presented by paying close attention to his retrieve. With every bite, he reflects on what he did to make that fish react and replicates this. Generally speaking, McDonald always casts and lets the bait sink straight to the bottom, then engages the bait on a slow and steady retrieve. He periodically stops the swimbait and ball head jig combo to regain bottom contact, keeping the lure on or near the bottom. Set the hook if you feel anything different and out of the ordinary.

Lastly, McDonald stresses the importance of recording a track on your fish finder map as you drift or troll while making sure to drop a waypoint when you contact a fish (catch or miss). Doing so allows you to either duplicate a productive pass, make targeted casts to groups or individual fish relating to specific spots (as indicated by the waypoint), or covering new water after an unproductive drift (don’t follow the same track). 

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