With summer in full swing right now, there's a few things that come to mind – days at the beach, days spent at the cottage with family, summer yard work around the house... and Great Lakes Smallmouth Fishing!
A lot of people get discouraged when they hear the words 'Great Lakes fishing'. People often immediately think that you need a decked-out boat to get out and hammer a day of fishing on the Great Lakes. In reality though, this is not always true! In the case where you're looking to catch summer kings, deep water walleye, and deep-water perch, then yes – you will need a boat to get deep enough to target these species'. If you're like me though, and are looking to just hook up on some feisty smallmouth –than you're in luck!!
When it comes to summer smallmouth bass fishing, in most of the great lakes (especially Lake Erie), you can wade out and 'surf fish' or wade for shoreline smallmouth! The key is getting out there at the right time, and with the right wind direction. If you're looking to get out and shore fish for Great Lakes smallmouth, the ideal time to target them is as the sun is coming up, or as the sun is going down (the stereotypical times to go fishing); as the sun begins to reign down the heat, the fish will move to deeper water to stay cool. So, get out there early and chase some of those smallies down!
For surf fishing/wading the shorelines, I like to 'fan cast' with Spinnerbaits, or shallow diving hardbaits/crankbaits. One of my favourite lures to throw for this technique (aside from a spinnerbait), is a Rapala XRap in a clown pattern. My favourite spinnerbait for this application is a Strike King 3/8-1/2oz white spinnerbait, with a willow leaf/Colorado blade combination.
For the anglers with small vessels/boats such as kayaks, canoes, SUPs, row boats; you folks' are in business when it comes to summer smallmouth! I've been fortunate enough to get out in my kayak to cruise the shorelines of Lake Erie over the last couple weeks, and the fishing has been phenomenal! To hook into some Great Lakes bruiser smallmouth you don't have to go far out – I was targeting them in no deeper than 20 feet of water.
The hot ticket on the water (for myself) lately has been the new Venom Tube Jigs, paired up with a 1/8oz Venom tube jig head. Just cast it out, let it touch bottom or get close to bottom and just lightly jig them and retrieve them back to your vessel – as simple as that! Be sure to set the hook hard to ensure a solid hook set on these bruisers!... They are often able to utilize their power to pop the hook.
The other bait that has been working well for me (for the athletic work horses out there!), has been the Live Target Perch, and Smallmouth Bass crankbaits trolled out the back of my kayak. To utilize this setup, I'll simply toss my lure about 15-20 yards out the back of my kayak, set my drag a little loose (so I can hear when a fish hooks up on it), and paddle away!... Listen for the drag scream, and when you year it just crank your drag and keep paddling for a few yards before grabbing your rod to fight the fish – make sure to keep tight tension on your fish, this is a challenging (but rewarding) task on the kayak! This technique works very well when searching to find underwater structure, or smallmouth that are cruisin' for a meal.
So there you have it folks! There's the techniques/applications that I personally use to get on bruiser smallmouth on the Great Lakes... Without a fancy boat!
So get out there and catch yourself some Great Lakes Smallies!
As always though, stay safe and stay within YOUR paddling abilities and always wear a PFD when on the water. Another wise idea is to bring a waterproof VHF radio, to ensure that you have an instant communication line to the Coast Guard if you find yourself in severe trouble.
Good luck, stay safe, and as always - Happy fishing!