First of all, we need to start off with a little myth-busting. When it’s hot and sunny and it’s two o’clock in the afternoon – smallmouth will get skinny, as in shallow water. I’ve heard from many “knowledgeable and well-intending people over the years how “it’s too hot for smallmouth to be up shallow” or “the sun’s too bright”. Summertime smallies are primarily sight feeders and there is no better time than when the sun is high. But that’s really only a small part of the puzzle.
One of the best places to begin looking for shallow summer smallies is on the inside edge of the weedlines. These little ecosystems are prime summertime feeding areas and overlooked by most.
Finding these weedlines is usually not the problem. The problem comes in that many anglers overlook the potential that aquatic vegetation has for smallmouth. “Overlook” isn’t even the right word, more like avoid. Popular literature, legends, stories, and old wives tales lead us to believe that smallmouth prefer rocks. The bigger, the better. Big boulders just look good – to us. But do they suit the needs of smallmouth in the summer?
On of the best and easier ways to find the inside areas is with your eyes and a good pair of glasses. Good quality polarized lenses more than pay for themselves in these situations. Purposely go searching for these areas in the middle of the day or early afternoon when the sun is highest (and hottest). Don’t worry about doing lots of casting initially. Just move around and look. Study how to move about in these areas look at the angles, make waypoints when necessary and then come back and fish it later that day or another.
Where to stick the boat, in general, is a real important topic. Maybe the most important. It is never more critical than when working these inside weedlines. The boat can even be in the right spot, but angled the wrong way. Playing angles with your casts and presentations is a big part of fishing these inner sanctuaries. Even the right cast to the right spot can lead to lost fish if your angle causes you to have to fight the fish through dense vegetation.
Topwaters, spinnerbaits, and soft plastics can all work great in these situations. Sometimes floating or broken off vegetation makes it difficult to effectively fish many baits. This is one area a soft plastic jerkbait really shines. I can make accurate casts from a good distance and thread the needle on the slots, and alley ways that make up these ecosystems. If you really want to learn the ins and outs of the best technique for this situation, be sure to check out our course on Fishing the Super Fluke for Smallmouth.