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This week's Feature Blog

Trolling for Smallmouth?

By: Mark Romanack

Early in the year, big smallmouth like this can be found using side imaging technology such as that provided by Garmin’s SideVu transducer. SideVu, makes it easy to see not only fish in shallow water, but important transitions such as gravel to rock or gravel to sand that tend to concentrate fish.

​ This blog is going to need a disclaimer less I get myself bludgeoned by the professional bass fishing community. I’m fully aware that trolling is not allowed in bass tournaments and trolling in general is frowned upon by the avid bass angler. For those of you who think trolling is evil, chances are you didn’t read this far anyway, so I won’t waste time with an apology!!

​ This blog is for those anglers who just enjoy catching quality fish and they don’t care if trolling is involved. Recently, Jake and I were pre-fishing for a TV episode on Lake Erie. In looking for pre-spawn walleye, we bumped into a pile of pre-spawn smallmouth bass. In the space of just a couple hours we caught perhaps 20 smallmouth in the 3-5 pound range!

​Nice fish to say the least, but what was interesting is we caught them trolling crankbaits in 40 degree water. It didn’t take us long to discover that when we were catching smallmouth, we weren’t catching walleye and when we found the walleye, there were no smallmouth to be found.

​ We found these fish using our Garmin EchoMap Ultra 2 in the SideVu mode. We chose SideVu because we were trolling in relatively shallow water (10-15 feet) and traditional broad beam sonar doesn’t look at much of the bottom in water that shallow.

​ What SideVu shows that broad beam sonar doesn’t is a detailed make up of the bottom. On SideVu it’s easy to see not only fish, but important bottom transitions such as sand, transiting to gravel or gravel transiting to rock. By studying these transitions it became abundantly obvious that the smallmouth were on the gravel and rock transitions and the walleye were on the sand to scattered rock transitions.  

The author caught this nice smallmouth and dozens of others trolling crankbaits on shallow water rock and gravel transitions. While trolling is not recognized as a presentation for targeting bass, it can be a useful tool for locating fish quickly.

​Countless articles have been written about how much walleye like rocks, but in this case the walleye were far more interested in the sandy bottoms than they were the rocky bottoms. How we caught the walleye will be a topic for another blog down the road.

​ The smallmouth on the other hand, were almost exclusively found on the rock and gravel bottom substrate. Because the water was fairly shallow, it was not difficult to present crankbaits within a couple feet of the bottom. We used Off Shore Side-Planers to spread out our lures and it was almost comical how easy it was to catch smallmouth bass anyone would drool over.

​ Because we were targeting walleye, we were using large profile minnow diving baits, but if a guy were to target smallmouth, a more compact medium to deep diving bait would be an even better choice.

​ The point of this blog is not to advocate trolling for smallmouth bass, but simply to point out that trolling is a great way to cover water when hunting for fish. Combine trolling with modern sonar technology and you have a one-two punch for finding fish fast. Once you find those fish, if a guy prefers to cast for them, so be it. The beauty of fishing is there is something for everyone and everyone has their preferred methods for catching fish.


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