What are Smallmouth Bass How to Catch Smallmouth Bass | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Smallmouth Bass: What are They and How do you Catch One?

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The Algonquin Indians call the smallmouth bass achigan, which means “the one that fights.” With all the traits of an aristocrat and ruffian, this fish stands head and tail above any freshwater game fish.

What is a Smallmouth Bass?

This fish ranges in color from dark, olive brown to pale yellow green with a mottled off-white belly. Its eyes are usually red or orange.

It has a broad, powerful tail, excellent hearing, and uncanny vision. With these physical attributes, plus a savage instinct to kill its prey with a single blow, the smallmouth comes close to being the perfect predator.

How to Catch a Smallmouth Bass

The most enjoyable and exciting way to catch a smallmouth is with a “bug.” You can do this method from a boat or canoe or on bass streams where wading is possible.

  • A 9–foot length flyrod is prefered for this method, along with a tapered line. The line should be spooled on a large reel with plenty of backing.
  • If you're in a boat or canoe, you need someone to keep it moving while fishing. The slower the craft moves, the better.
  • Plop the “bug” along every yard of shoreline, even in places that appear to be fishless. Remember, you can never tell where a bass may be lurking.

Bait for Smallmouth Bass

The smallmouth takes to a wide variety of bait, top-water and deep-running.

  • Try using a frog bug. The closer you can make the bug act like a real frog, the better your chances are of catching a smallmouth. Plop the frog lure by the shore and let it rest there briefly. If nothing happens, gently twitch the rod a few times. After a brief time, “swim” the lure about a dozen feet along the surface before casting again.
  • Try some unlikely baits, such as corncob, a string of beads, the top of a beer can, and bait dressed with boiled egg. Don't be discouraged if the smallmouth aren't biting; sometimes they just won't bite anything.

Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing Places

There isn't actually any specific places that are best for catching smallmouth. These fish are found in every state except Alaska. However, smallmouth prefer cleaner, swifter, and cooler waters than largemouth bass.

Here are some good places to check out:


  • Lake Quinsigamond in western MA
  • Grand Lake Stream country in Washington County, ME
  • Lake Champlain, VT
  • Lawrence River, NY


  • Spirit Lake, IA
  • Les Cheneaux Islands, MI
  • Lac La Croix, WI

If you know of some great places—or any fishing tips or stories, please post below!

About The Author

Martha White

Martha White has been a full-time writer and editor since 1987 and has a broad background in journalism, opinion columns, syndicated features, humor articles, book reviews, essays, and fiction. Read More from Martha White

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