When you grow up in Michigan like I did, you have an undying passion for catching smallmouth.
I love their aggressive nature and have learned that the clearer the water the more aggressive they are.
You can equate that to spotted bass, too. In many ways, that species of bass may look more like a largemouth but acts similarly to a smallmouth.
That is, until they are pressured or living in a lake under the conditions we are running into here at Lake Chatuge in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of Year Championship.
Chatuge is a beautiful lake and you can see its potential. But with 50 of the best anglers out here all week, coupled with local fishing pressure and weather conditions, these spotted bass are enough to drive an angler crazy.
To compound those issues, the primary forage is the blueback herring, a wildly nomadic baitfish that is in one area of the lake today but gone tomorrow. The bass move with them.
What is bewildering to me is how finicky these spotted bass are. You can mark a big school of them on your electronics, drop a bait down to them and literally see 150 come look at it before one decides to bite.
If the same scenario happens with smallmouth, they will be fighting over who gets to bite it first.
And with these spots, you can throw topwaters or swimbaits and see the bass run up behind them and not take the lure. That doesn’t happen with smallmouth.
Am I complaining? Not at all. One of the things I like about fishing a place like this is the challenge in finding ways to get the finicky fish to bite.
One thing I have discovered is these fish are very line shy and you have to drop down in line size to trigger more bites. That’s not all that uncommon, as I’ve encountered similar situations when fishing below Tennessee and Coosa River dams where the fish get a lot of fishing pressure.
However, the X Factor on those river fish is current spewing out of the dams. That gets the fish more active and you can still find ways to trick them into biting.
This week on the Chatuge, there is no wind, current or cloud cover, so the challenge is accentuated, and it can be extremely humbling.
Therefore, I just keep experimenting. I’m trying to match the size of the forage (which means downsizing) and get my colors more precise. I’m experimenting with lure speed.
The water is pretty clear in a lot of areas I’m fishing so fast, erratic retrieves have gotten me the most bites. Having said that, you can do everything just right here at Chatuge and watch the spotted bass turn up their noses.
My advice to anyone heading to a spotted bass lake is to try to time their trips around weather changes. That’s what will really fire up those darn spots and will make fishing for them a blast!
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!