New Year, New water

Discussion in 'Southwest Ohio Fishing Reports' started by cantsleep, Feb 25, 2009.

  1. cantsleep

    cantsleep 3rd shift blues

    O.K. guys, after mostly being a very casual, recreational, mostly live bait type of fisherman, I started using more artificials and learning how to "fish" more last year. This year I aim to hit it much harder, and will focus on finding smallies in my home water, the GMR from Middletown up toward Franklin.
    Much of this will be in stretches I've never fished, so here's two questions:

    1) What is the first thing you look for on new water? Pools? Current breaks?
    Water condition?
    2) What's your best search bait for each condition?
  2. Love smallmouth,I fish the lmr.I find that when shallow ( fast ) water meets a deeper pool,espeacially in rocky areas.They seem to be looking into the current for an unsuspecting bait fish or crawdad. I like to sneekup on these areas first before I hit the rest of the pool using jigs most of the time.Usually in the first couple of casts I will get bit by throwing to the shallowater and pulling my bait to the drop off and when they hit they slam it! Lotta FUN!

  3. SConner

    SConner Fish Whisperer

    When I am looking at new water, I find entry point and start walking up stream. Throw behind anything that breaks the current such as rocks and log jams. If you get to large still pools, slow down and tie on a tube. Where shallow water dumps into the pool, stop and fish this for quite a while as they will stack up there. Fish right along the edges of where fast and slow moving water meets. Don't overlook shallow fast moving water, there are usually some little smallmouth actively feeding in these runs. If using crankbaits, the Rebel wee craw in brown/orange or green/orange is a great smallmouth lure.

    Good luck and be careful!
  4. fshnteachr

    fshnteachr Lovin' the Outdoors

    Lures: the Rebel Wee Craw is an incredible smallie crankbait. Tubes are also great to use, yet they are tough to fish in my opinion. If you do it right, you get them snagged and lose a lot of them. Not that they're expesive, just a pain in the butt to keep breaking line. I would suggest using the tubes in the shallow quick water as well. I've had luck with little rooster tails in shallow water as well. Now realize, probably not going to catch large fish often with rebel craw and rooster tails in the shallows of the river, but in my opinion a fish is a fish and I love catching and releasing them all. Some guys on here only worry about the big fish, I think the tubes and jigs catch the bigger fish in the rivers obviously.

    Where to fish: the guys who posted before me nailed it. Those are the spots.
  5. Ajax

    Ajax Rapala Snagger

    I'm still learning how to catch smallmouth but most of the fish I catch are in the slower water well behind the riffles. I look for rocks under the water. If there is a deep pool and I see a rock and nothing but deep water around it I fish there. I've also had good luck with weedlines. (not typical smallmouth territory) When I fish the current breaks at the end of a riffle I'm usually catching sauger and catfish. I usually fish crankbaits and jerkbaits. If I'm not catching with those I switch to a twistertail jig or roostertails.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2009
  6. ajax brought up a great point, while targeting the breaks in current and the eddies will get you many fish. its not always the best place to target. early season, march-april, I do very well with big fish in riffles near wintering areas. however in the summer I like to target as ajax mentioned, isolated rock piles:B. you want slight current but it doesnt take much. if you want to see lots of fish and pick up the learning curve I would suggest a canoe. do it in june or july when the smallies are really crazy and throw black buzzbaits to every piece of cover in slow water, and shad raps or wee craws or spinners in all the fast water, bring a tube to follow up short strikes on the top. fish the same 2-3mile drift until you know the name of every smallie in it, then take what you know about where they hold and it will hold true in most cases in s. ohio.
    btw, in the summer topwaters, big ones at that, are my #1 big smallie getter, bounce them off the bank near cover and pull them right next to structure

    once you get this down I would suggest leaving the dark side and getting a fly rod for some real fun;)
  7. fshnteachr

    fshnteachr Lovin' the Outdoors

    Riverking remnded me: TOPWATER! I forgot to mention that in my post. Nothing like a Heddon favorite, when they strike that bad boy it is so much fun. Great lure.
  8. Very good questions cantsleep.

    I've fished the GMR from as far north as Sidney to as far south as W. Carrollton for smallies over the past 15+ years. It is a much different (bigger) river down south than it is north...much more water to cover...and seasonal variations in river conditions should help narrow your lure selection.

    I've never fished as far south as you're talking about, but I do know it's bigger water. Certainly look for current breaks/eddies (and best yet a creek that spills in and pushes bait) but also look for obvious structure along the banks...old dead fallen over trees, submerged logs and boulders all provide good cover for ambushing smallies. That said, the bigger parts of the river (where you are) may also have some less obvious structure below the surface "in the middle", like mid-river ridges, rock piles and shallow flats. I've really never done that well for smallies in "pools" or slack water down in the larger parts of the the current breaks just outside of them, but no so much in the pools themselves. It's not that I don't think there's fish in the pools, it's just that I've come to believe that the most actively feeding smallies relate better to current and structure combinations. That doesn't keep me from throwing into and around a pool when I see one...but my experience has simply been I catch more around them than in them.

    One of the lures I like to use to find fish when fishing new water in the GMR in wider sections of the river in the pre-spawn period and fall is a 1/4 oz chartreuse double-willow spinner bait. You can throw it a long way, vary your presentation and depth with your retrieve, and essentially cover a lot of water and conditions without much worry of snags. The vibration and flash of the spinners helps the fish locate the lure in stained water conditions. Other lures to consider pre-spawn (if the water clarity is decent) are twister tail jigs (I like white), soft-plastice jerk baits or a floating rapala

    During the smallmouth spawn (generally a week or so either side of May 1), most of the smallies you catch will be the smaller males guarding beds. They'll hit almost anything that comes by. I don't advocate targeting males off the beds, but if you do, please be sure to return them to the water as quickly as possible so they can do their duty!

    I almost always take a peak inside the smallmouth's mouth when I catch one to see if there's anything sticking out of it's gullet to give a clue as to what they're eating. After early spring, once you start seeing claws (crawdads) sticking out, it's probably time to switch over to crawdad crankbaits for your searching. Rebel wee-craws are great, my favorite fishing buddy calls them "the workhorse of the river", but I prefer "Fat A's". I think they're a little heavier and again, you're searching, so I think you can get a little more distance on the cast to cover more water. Red seems to be a good color for stained water conditions. I like to crimp the barbs on my treble hooks...much easier to get the fish off unharmed...and I don't mind getting a hook in my hand, but once they go past the barb, you're in for some pain. In any event, you may choose to experiment with some other baits like tube jigs or soft plastic jerk baits (fewer snags with these) if you just get sick of cranking crawdad crankbaits all the time...but nothing will outfish the crawdad crankbaits through the summer. Almost everything in the river will eat them...including channel cats.

    Finally, in the early fall, thoughts turn to topwater smallies. Buzz baits in shallow current early in the fall, then on to spinner baits to find them and Pop'R's to catch them on the flats. Keep your eye's open in the fall...many times the fish will show you where they are by chasing shad along the surface. They relate more to the presence of baitfish than structure as far as I can tell. That's how I found one of my most consistently producing smallmouth spots about 10 years ago. I was fishing a part of the river GMR near West Carrollton when I saw dozens of shad skipping across the surface like popcorn in an otherwise non-descript chunk of the river...I'd cruised by it without a cast at least a couple times thinking it was just a stretch of empty water...but when I cast into the middle of all those shad I caught very nice (14 - 17") river smallmouth on almost every cast for about 45 minutes. Needless to say, it's become my favorite fall spot and has produced every year since I found it.

    Man, I'm rambling...if you read this far, good luck cantsleep. Let us know how you do.
  9. I love fishing right in the riffles with spinners and catching lots of little smallies, but that's about all I ever find there. Most experienced river anglers know that the sweet spots are where the fast current meets a pool of slower current (preferably a deep pool). However, I have found that any place you can find that is deep will hold fish most of the time. "Deep" can mean only 3 feet if the majority of the surrounding area is only 6" to a foot deep. If you find a spot that is 4-5 feet or deeper, you might have a nice little honey hole. I'd spend some time in it with crankbaits and spinners. I've found my biggest smallies in these holes, many of which do not have any other features to make them attractive. No log jams, no big rocks, no swift current nearby. If you prefer to target smallmouths, it seems that they prefer a rocky bottom so I wouldn't waste much time where the bottom is just sand or mud. But those spots can hold sizeable panfish and catfish or even largemouths.

    Of course the usual stucture and points are ideal. I'm just saying that I don't overlook the "dull' looking spots if they are deep. Having said that, the part of the river that is closest to where I live is a long, slow stretch backed up by a dam. It all looks "dull", it has deep spots and I've generally found fishing to be a waste of time there. You do want some faster water and structure somewhere in the vicinity.
  10. All above are very good comments. I spent most of last summer learning to catch smallies out of the GMR between Carlisle down to Route 4 Bridge in Middletown.

    Let me tell you it was a rough and frustrating section to learn on.
    1. I did best on the rebel wee crawfish most of the time. But any crawdad imitation, firetiger color cranks, and shad colored cranks all did well. The clearer the water, the more natural colors worked better.
    2. I found that anywhere there is fast moving water leaving or entering a pool were the best parts of the river to fish. Most of the fish I caught, and the bigger fish at, came from these areas.
    3. fish size in this stretch of the GMR seemed to be limited. Most of the fish I caught were in the 6" to 10" range (like 90% of the fish I caught), a few in the 12" range, and as I recall only about 2 that were bigger.
    I did hook into a several large fish, but lost most of them due to my inexperience fishing for bass. The bigger one’s jump more.

    This year I will be taking a slightly different approach to fishing this section,

    I will be fishing mostly from my KAYAK :p

    See ya on the water.
  11. keeping a tight line at all times will minimize jumping but when they do jump drop the tip of your rod straight down and it'll help keep the fish from throwing the hook.
  12. cantsleep

    cantsleep 3rd shift blues

    This is what I've heard, that this section of the river is not as productive for bass, panfish etc. as other sections. I can (usually) always catch cats in this section, but am struggling with other species.
    I think that's one reason I want to target it this year. It doesn't make sense for fishing to be better both upstream and down from here. I just gotta figure out where they are hiding.

    Thanks for the other responses. I can't wait to get out there.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2009
  13. My personal favorite for smallies is when I can find rocks next to or in deep water. If the rocks are shallow, go at dusk or dawn and try in-line spinners, tiny torpedoes or fly rod poppers. If the rocks are little deeper, go to deep diving crankbaits, 3 to 5" tubes, clousers and conehead olive/black wooly buggers and muddlers.

    The whole thing boils down to rocks. Smallies love rocks. Find rocks, especially adjacent to deep water, and you will find smallies. The bigger the rocks, the more smallies you will find and usually the bigger they will be.
  14. And when you find smallmouths, you will find that you are also having a LOTTA FUN!!!!!!! LOVE SMALLMOUTHS!!!!!!!!!!