Bait Options For Spring, Summer and Fall
Bait choices for sandbag rigging can be quite diversified for variable water temperatures, seasons and geographical locations throughout the United States and Canada. Live Bait options can include: Shiners, alewives, various species of chubs and small suckers, small river shiners, ayu, different species of shad, pin-head minnows, leeches, waterdogs, night crawlers, sculpin, and live crawdads.
I’ve had great success running various soft plastics on these drift rigs and many times prefer plastic options for drift rigs. Down-sized swimbaits in a variety of specific bait imitators work well on drift rigs. From soft minnow imitators to craw imitating plastics, there are a wide array of options for drift rigs for giant smallies. The options are endless, so be creative, think outside the box and don’t be afraid to experiment with all live baits and artificials throughout the season. Although the nature of the smallmouth is generally aggressive, there are however, certain forage and forage imitators the prevail during seasonal changes.
Smallies are aggressive fish, but can, and will get spooked during instances when obscure baits don’t fit the profile of their preferred diets at that specific time of the season.
During Spring, with water temperatures in the 43 to 50 degrees range, the primary species of forage residing in the waters you target, along with any crawdad imitating baits or live craws usually produce exceptionally. Small to larger models of swimming grubs take many big smallies on waters I’ve fish across the country. On the Great Lakes and Tributaries, I prefer Red-Tailed Chubs and Emerald Shiners for the trophy pre-spawn season on Lake Erie.
As water temperatures rise into the mid-fifties through the 60’s range. Bait fish still produce well, but I tend to go back to live crawdads, tubes and plastics. Crawdads are my preferred bait from this time frame right through Early Fall.
During The Summer Peak time frame through late Summer, soft-shelled craws are candy for giant smallies on any waters you target. The soft shelled craws on my Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and many other smallmouth waters I’ve fished through the decades, have been devastating on big smallies when the are available You can trap your own bait with crawdad traps in advance of your scheduled trips if they are not available at your local bait shops. On all my Lake Erie, Ontario, St Lawrence, Champlain and Niagara River trips, these critters at these time of the season will usually out-produce any other options.
When water temperatures begin to cool and especially after the Fall turnover, I’ll return to artificials and bait fish on all my drift rigs on local waters and the Great Lakes and Tributaries. At this time of the season and right through the Fall peak bite and into late fall, red-tailed chubs in the 5 and 6 inch range are a primary choice for out-size smallies on Erie, Ontario, and other waters across the country. Various other species of bait fish produce almost as well.
In the late Fall frigid water temperatures, as giant smallies begin to head for wintering areas, stick to forage native to the waters your targeting, as smallies will be still gorging over basin areas before the on set of Winter. If available in your area, try waterdogs in the smaller variety for an alternate seldom seen option. Dazed and confused over the hundreds of new options and innovations for smallies over the past decade? Try going back to basics with a modern edge for smallies in the new millennium…
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