Behold the glory of summertime: campfires under starlit skies, the simple pleasure of an ice cold glass of lemonade and some of the fastest fishing action of the year. Wisconsin is home to arguably one of the greatest collections of sport fish in North America. Dr. James A. Henshall described one of Wisconsin’s more popular fish species, the small-mouth bass: “Inch for inch and pound for pound, the gamest fish that swims.”
While this sentiment is not shared by everyone to ever have picked up a rod and reel, it is gospel to the contingency of anglers who passionately pursue this bronze-backed adversary throughout the open water season. I am fortunate to spend a great deal of my time fishing on Wisconsin’s hardest working river, the Wisconsin. The river is a virtual musky and walleye factory, but it also is some of the premier small-mouth bass water in the upper Midwest.
The key to finding summertime river small-mouth is first to identify main river structure. Sandbars and humps, undercut banks, snags, stumps, blown down trees, wing dams and even weeds all will draw fish to them during the balmy months of summer. The best structure tends to be in close proximity to the main river channel, largely because of the current available there as side channels and backwaters experience the reduced current flow so often experienced during summertime on Wisconsin rivers.
Searching for small-mouth bass entails using lures that not only cover water quickly, but that bronze backs find irresistible; fail-safe options include lipless in-line spinners, crank baits, buzz baits and spinner baits. My personal favorite, because of its versatility and ability to cover water quickly and consistently score on smallies is the in-line spinner. The Mepps Aglia, Aglia Long and Black Fury are my go-to baits when conditions dictate small-mouth bass are scattered. I use the Aglia in shallow water, the Aglia Long for reaching deeper depths, and the dark-colored blade of the Black Fury during low-light conditions.
Equipment for summertime small-mouth, outside of the lures mentioned previously, include medium-light to medium action St. Croix spinning rods from 7 to 7 ˝ feet in length, coupled with a quality spinning reel such as the Abu Garcia Cardinal series. Spool the reel with 6 to 12 pound test Sufix Elite monofilament fishing line, depending on the size of the fish available and the amount of cover you will be fishing in proximity to.
Summertime is a time of beauty, and few things are as picturesque as a boldly marked small-mouth exploding from the water, your lure in its mouth. Enjoy the heat; enjoy the bass. I’ll see you on the water …
Joel DeBoer is owner of Wisconsin Angling Adventures Guide Service, www.wisconsinanglingadventures.com.