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This week's Feature Blog

If It’s Brown It’s Down

It’s easy to see how the smallmouth bass got the nickname “brown bass”. Bryan Darland of Jay’s Sporting Goods caught this stud in an area of Lake Huron known as the Whaleback while filming an episode of Fishing 411 TV.

The term “If it’s brown it’s down” is usually reserved for deer hunters who are willing to shoot either a buck or a doe. The term is equally adaptive to smallmouth bass fishing because the “brown bass” spends the best part of it’s life in close contact with the bottom.

​ Certainly, there are times when smallmouth bass will suspend to take advantage of a pelagic forage species or to crash a topwater bait, but day in and day out, the place to find consistent action is on or very near the bottom.


Smallmouth are predictable in that they spend the majority of their lives in contact with the bottom. This excellent specimen was caught by Jake Romanack working a drop shot rig along the breakwall that appears in the background.

​​ The advent of the drop shot rig has literally revolutionized smallmouth bass fishing. Little more than a short shank hook Palomar knotted to the line a few inches above a weight, the drop shot will accommodate a host of different types of soft plastics. This rig can be fished vertical for deep fish or casted and worked slowly back to the boat in more shallow water.

Most anglers fish a drop shot using a medium or medium/light action spinning outfit and either fluorocarbon line or a small diameter super braid as the main line. At the terminal end either a No. 4 or No. 2 Trokar TK25P or TK150 hook is perfect for rigging plastics.

​ Either way, the drop shot gets the bait to the strike zone quickly and efficiently. A drop shot rig is the ideal way to fish small finesse style plastics in deeper water. Classic baits like the Z-Man TRD, HulastickZ and Trick ShotZ are deadly effective on smallmouth when fished with a drop shot rig.

​ While the drop shot rig got it’s start as a finesse tactic, these days guys have modified the approach for fishing heavy weed cover. The power shot rig is a beefed up version of the finesse style drop shot rig that is tied using heavy super braid line and larger weights.

​Instead of finesse plastics the power shot is used with larger crayfish imitators, lizards, beavertails and other large profile soft plastics. Pitched into holes in the salad, this unique rig is deadly effective at pulling brown bass out of heavy weed cover such as cabbage and coontail.


​ The tube bait is to smallmouth bass what the spinnerbait has become to largemouth fishermen. Tubes are so universally effective they catch smallmouth bass just about everywhere. A tube does an excellent job of imitating crayfish scurrying around the bottom or baitfish such as the round goby that live among the rocks.

​ The other advantage of tube baits is they are ideal for fishing scent products. After rigging up a tube, squirt a generous amount of Pro Cure Super Gel inside the bait. Good scents for this kind of fishing include crayfish or emerald shiner, two of the most common forage species that smallmouth prey upon.


​ Not unlike the tube bait, jigs dressed with curl-tail or paddle-tail style grubs are deadly effective search baits for smallmouth. Plastics in the three and four inch ranges are perfect when matched up to 1/8, 1/4 and 3/8 ounce jigheads.

​When selecting color patterns for smallmouth is best to generally stick with darker plastics such as pumpkinseed, motor oil, root beer and green pumpkin.


​ The Carolina rig is one of those classic deep water rigs that you seldom see anglers using these days. Similar to the slip sinker rig commonly employed by walleye anglers, the Carolina rig typically employs a weight and glass bead to create a clicking sound as the rig is dragged along the bottom.

​ At the business end, a 24-36 inch leader of fluorocarbon line and a wide bend worm hook complete the rig. This rig is ideal for dragging worms, lizards, creature baits and other larger plastics in deep water.

​ While the Carolina rig can be casted, typically this rig shines best when used to drift and drag over sprawling flats.

Smallmouth bass are very receptive to natural scent products such as Pro Cure Super Gel. The author loves to fill tube baits with crayfish Super Gel and cast along rocky shorelines.


​ The blade bait combines the vibration and action of a crankbait into a sinking lure that can be easily fished in deep water and in contact with the bottom. This versatile lure can be fished off spinning or baitcasting gear and casts like a bullet.

​ Make a long cast, let the blade bait sink to the bottom and then start retrieving the bait by scooting it along the bottom. Blade baits work best when they are fished in close contact to the bottom, so keep the retrieve slow and the bait on or near the bottom.


​ Lipless crankbaits like the famous Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap are usually thought of as shallow water search baits. These sinking lures can also be used in deeper water and fished more like a jig than a crankbait.

​ Make a long cast and let the lipless bait sink all the way to bottom. Reel up the slack line and using the rod tip, pull the bait forward and a foot or so off bottom before pausing and letting the bait wobble back to bottom.

​ Most of the strikes will occur as the bait is sinking or smallmouth will pin the bait to the bottom. The fish is detected when the angler reels up the slack and attempts to move the bait again.


​ The smallmouth bass is a predictable species. It’s a safe bet that on most bodies of water and at most times of the year, the brown bass is going to have it’s fins on the bottom.


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