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Michigan Smallmouth Bass Fishing



Sometimes their big, sometimes there’s lots of them and sometimes you get lucky and there’s lots of big ones!

Smallmouth Fishing in West Michigan’s Rivers
Both the Muskegon and Manistee Rivers offer good smallmouth fishing throughout the summer.  Stripping crawfish and other streamers is often a fun and productive method, though fishing poppers can also be productive at times.  Average fish size is from small to a couple pounds but action is often steady and fast paced.

Drifting down a cool stream while hitting cover and structure along the shoreline can make for a great way to spend a summer day.

Smallmouth and a Mixed Bag of Other Species in West Michigan’s Inland Lakes
West Michigan is blessed with endless inland lakes, each offering something unique.  Spend a laid-back day fishing for not only smallmouth bass but also largemouth bass, pike, panfish, walleye, carp and in many lakes musky.

Stripping streamers and fishing poppers and other dries can be productive depending on the season and that days conditions.

Smallmouth Fishing in Lake Michigan’s Open Waters
This is a “must do” opportunity.  It’s hard to beat a day smallmouth fishing on Lake Michigan’s gin clear waters, especially considering that the average fish size is in the 3 to 5 pound range with large fish not uncommon.

Working large streamers on the transitions from shallow flats and reefs to deeper water is the most common approach.  We can often sight-cast to fish as they hang near these shady natural ambush locations watching for any prey leaving the shallows.

Under the right conditions large schools of smallmouth mix with carp, catfish, drum and pike in large bays, creating incredible opportunities.  At these times you’ll hit a fish on almost every cast and the bite can last for hours.  Sometimes we get a nice bite going on poppers and mayfly patterns.

Smallmouth and Other Species in Lake Michigan’s River Mouths, Harbors and Piers:
These rich areas can often be an incredible resource and a hot fishing opportunity.  Stripping streamers in these areas, well, let us say that you never know what will end up on the end of your line.  We have had days with dozens of fish to the boat, with 5 to 7 species making up the mix, some of which would include:  smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, musky, carp, salmon, steelhead, brown trout, lake trout, walleye, white bass, perch, drum, suckers, catfish and gar.

There is a lot going on at these river mouth areas and the fish are attracted for many reasons.  The trout, salmon and steelhead are an incredible opportunity when they stage in these areas, getting slammed and fighting these fish can only be compared to saltwater fishing.

Fly Fishing Gear for Michigan Smallmouth:
Fly Rods for Michigan Smallmouth — 4 to 8 weights.  While a light rod is a blast attached to a five pound smallmouth, it leaves a little to be desired when casting a heavy fly in a stiff breeze.  Plan on fishing a 7 or 8 weight but pack a smaller rod if you wish and the opportunity is available.

Fly Reels for Michigan Smallmouth — The smallmouth don’t demand a great reel but keep in mind that while fishing the Great Lakes and tributaries you always have the chance to hook something big and fast.

Fly Lines for Great Lakes Smallmouth — I would want a matched floating line and and a sinking system, or at least a sink-tip to add to your floating line.

Clothes and Waders for Great Lakes Smallmouth — Always have waders with you for a Great Lakes smallmouth trip but shorts and wading boots with wading socks are a nice option on hot days.  For clothing bring a fleece and rain/wind jacket for morning and cool or windy days.

Flies for Michigan Smallmouth — If smallmouth are my only or main concern I like a large profile, sparsely tied fly that will hold little water and therefore cast well… something like a clouser.

In any water you cannot go smallmouthing without a couple good crawfish patterns and these days you can’t hit the Great Lakes without a some goby flies.

Michigan Smallmouth Flies:
Martinez’s Goby in olive
Grau’s Easy Sculpin (Walt Grau)
Morlock’s Carp Breakfast
Morlock’s Goby
Morlock’s Craw Bunny
Anderson’s Hammerhead

Flies That Will Also Work For Michigan Smallmouth:
Martinez’s Muddler
Morlock’s 4 Eyes
Martinez’s Halloween Caveman (on a tube)
Morlock’s UV Rabbit (in brown)
Martinez’s Steelhead Caveman (in bright yellow for dirty water)
SS Bugger (Steelhead/Salmon Bugger)

Below we have put together a reference list of the steelhead information on our site.
Great Lakes Smallmouth Bass Articles:
Beaver Island, MI. Northern Island Angling Paradise by Brandon Butler
Fly fishing is good on Michigan’s Beaver Island by Brandon Butler

Great Lakes Smallmouth Bass Videos:
Beaver Island on the Fly with Matt Dunn and Steve Martinez

Other Information and Reports:
Third Coast Fly

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