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Smallmouth bass

Micropterus dolomieu


The smallmouth bass is most often bronze to brownish green with dark vertical bars on its sides. Unlike the largemouth bass, the smallmouth bass has an upper jaw that extends only to the middle of its reddish eyes. Its dorsal fin is not deeply notched. Three distinct dark bars radiate from the eye.

Habitats and Habits: Smallmouth bass are native to the upper and middle Mississippi River drainage and have been introduced throughout North America. In North Carolina, smallmouth bass often inhabit coolwater streams, lakes and reservoirs in the western part of the state; preferring water temperatures ranging from 70 and 80°F. They are rarely found in small ponds or lakes less than 25 feet deep or in any water that is continuously murky or polluted. Insects and small fish comprise the bulk of a diet for juvenile smallmouth bass while adults will eat a variety of food items. Smallmouth bass living in lakes feed on shad and crayfish while stream-­‐dwelling smallmouths eat mainly minnows and crayfish.


NCARP Minimum Requirements: 3 pounds or 19 inches State Record: 10 lbs., 2 oz., from Hiwassee Reservoir on June 1, 1951 World Record: 11 lbs., 15 oz., from Dale Hollow Lake, Tenn., July 9, 1955

• River systems-­‐ Jackson and Swain Counties are blessed with some of the regions best smallmouth fishing. Other regional rivers worth exploring and the drive would be the Pigeon River (especially below Big Creek) and the French Broad (personal favorite areas being a few miles above and below the Buncombe County land fill entrance). With fishable populations found in: Tuckasegee (preferably below the 441 bridge), Oconaluftee (Bird Town area), and the Little Tennessee. After a nights rain, or any storm system that colors the water, the Oconaluftee will fish better being that it runs cleaner, longer, after a storm but seams to hold the smallest population of the three.

• Of all three, the “Little T”, is by far the better river for shear numbers of smallies. The Little T has great access (off of both 28 South and Needmore Road), is easily waded, and rarely considered to be “crowded”, and also boasts miles of the most spectacular scenery in the Southeast. With the addition of a few new added boat ramps, the Little T offers some of the best drift boat/oar rig fishing in the State. Its not uncommon to catch largemouth bass, carp, walleye, white bass, sunfish, catfish, or trout, and every year a few Musky are caught. Musky swimming up from Fontana, and the remaining fish from a state stocking program a few decades ago, ensure there is a chance with every cast of coming tight with one.

• Spawning-­‐ Starts when water reaches 60-­‐65° F; preferring gravel, rubble, or large boulders in 2-­‐5’ of water.

• 2,000 to 10,000, light amber to pale yellow eggs, are laid per nest, with eggs hatching between 3-­‐8 days. Nests are guarded by the males, with fry remaining in the nest for around 15 days.

• Growth-­‐ Much, much slower in the mountains. Largely due to water temperatures, availability of preferred diet, and the number of “silt days”. Smallmouth are mainly intolerant of silt laden waters, which greatly reduces their foraging efficiency. So, the number of “silt days” is directly related to the size to age equation.

Inches Years

2-­‐4” = 1 3-­‐7” = 2 4-­‐11” = 3 6-­‐13 ”= 4

Inches Years

10-­‐14” = 5 12-­‐15” = 6 13-­‐17” = 7 14-­‐18” = 8

  • Diet-­‐ consists of small fish (chubs, , crawfish, salamanders, frogs, and insects such as hellgrammites, and stone flies.

  • Movements-­‐ non-­‐migratory, and typically don’t school in our rivers. Most active at dawn and dusk. Their daily movements are ruled by their search for the preferred water temp, prey availability, and cover. During the heat of the day smallmouth will move to deeper pools, and dense overhanging cover to avoid bright light and reach better water temperatures. In the winter they once again seek deeper pools and become extremely lethargic and actually are considered to be semi-­‐dormant in the coldest months.

  • Equipment-­‐ smallmouth fly-­‐fishing equipment is similar and to many anglers the exact same rods and reels used in trout fishing or a size or two larger.

  • Rods for the Little T, Tuckasegee, and Oconaluftee the standard 9’ 5wt. fast action rod will get you started and perform well under most conditions. However, on windy days or throwing a large popper or heavy streamer, a 6 wt. will make a huge difference. Some anglers prefer to size the rod on the heavy size and might use a 7 or 8 weight. I find that most anglers enjoy the fight much more, and cast better using rods they are accustom to using regularly.

  • Proper fly line selection will make all the difference in accuracy, and ensure you enjoy casting a popper. Rio builds the perfect line with their Smallmouth bass line, in sizes 6-­‐8. This Weight-­‐Forward line is made to turn over bulky, wind resistant flies like the poppers and streamers with accuracy. Just as importantly is the temperature range of this line. Smallmouth fishing is HOT work, throwing your typical trout line will ensure piles of tangles and knotted line jamming in your guides; Rio’s Smallmouth line is made for the heat, thus reducing knotting. For 5wt. smallmouth rigs, Rio’s Freshwater Outbound Short is a great choice and comes in floating or intermediate.

  • Leader and tippet selection should be much heavier then for trout. Fluorocarbon will perform much better then mono with its added abrasion resistant qualities. Generally, leaders 9’ long are ideal and should be a minimum of 8 lb. with 10 lb. being ideal.

• Fly selection-­‐bass poppers (Boggle Bugs cost a few dollars more at purchase but will last twice as long as the cheaper poppers and is money well spent), Wooly buggers, Crayfish imitations, Clousers, Sculpins, and Zonkers, terrestrials during the proper season, damsel flies, and girdle bugs are great smallmouth flies. Fishing for smallmouth with poppers is pretty much as good as it gets on a fly rod in freshwater. The extreme aggressive nature of a smallmouth attacking a popper will shock anglers on the first few fish. Typically, poppers fish better at dawn and dusk. Try large stonefly patterns and don’t be afraid to experiment with different hopper-­‐ dropper rigs.

**To book a smallmouth trip with Ben give us a call today! Ben is one of the best at finding fish, particularly larger fish at that. **

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