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Smallies play by a different set of rules

You would think that as many years I’ve been fishing northern Michigan smallmouth, I would have seen and experienced just about everything.

Well, this week added another chapter to that book.

I met with a Strike King film crew in Traverse City Thursday to create footage for a Pro Team Journal Show that is to air after the first of the year.

Michigan had experienced some of the hottest weather of the summer the past couple of weeks, but that changed drastically Wednesday night. Despite a day of storms accompanied by gale force winds and rain, the temperature was still in the mid 70s and humid that evening.

But when I got up Thursday morning, it was only 45 degrees. When I launched my boat, the water temperature had dropped to 62 degrees – 10 degrees difference from the day before!

How’s that for a cold front!

I knew fishing a major front like that could be brutal on fishing, especially when I saw what the wind and rain had done to the lake.

The water is normally gin clear there but it was so churned up from the wind that you couldn’t see a foot beneath the surface.

Due to the hot weather, the bass in these northern lakes had been deep, yet I had a hunch the change moved them shallow. I tied on a spinnerbait and caught three smallies in my first few casts, including a 4-pounder.

That led me to believe that the fishing might not be as bad as I expected.

But when the heavy wind shifted from the northwest to the north, the fish shut off. The passing of the front was having its effect on the bass in that dirty water.

It was time to make a lake change to a deeper body of water that I knew would be more stable and offer clearer water. We loaded the boat and moved to a larger lake nearby and the bass were there to greet us.

It paid off. I got at least 40 smallmouth bites on that spinnerbait and several of those were so aggressive the bass nearly knocked the rod out of my hands!

So much for the effects of a cold front!

I point this out to show how different smallmouth can be than largemouth. Many anglers believe smallmouth are fussy, especially following a front, and that you can only catch them deep on finesse baits.

Yet, on the biggest and most drastic weather change I’ve ever experienced when fishing smallmouth, the bass were roaming the shallows and crushing a spinnerbait.

If we would have been on Lake Okeechobee or Toho fishing for largemouth under those conditions, I would have been lucky to get a bite on any lure.

It was equally interesting to see how these smallmouth wasted no time making the transition from summer to fall patterns. They left their deep haunts in a matter of a few hours to prowl the shallows.

Northern lakes clear up fast, and if we get a day of sunshine and 10- to 15-mph winds, these sight-feeding smallies will go nuts, regardless of the post frontal conditions and the drop in water temperature.

So, why do I live in Michigan in this crazy weather? Because this is my motherland – and where big, tough smallmouth bass won’t run from a fight, even when the weather delivers a knockout punch!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!