The smallmouth bass bite is hot on the Broad River, and the fish are hitting especially well in the afternoons on inline spinners and surface lures. Anglers who don’t mind getting a late start and fishing until just before dark are having plenty of success, especially in the moving water around shoals.
Mike McSwain of Broad River Smallmouth said the Broad’s water level has been especially low for a few weeks, which he said has made plenty of changes in the river. “You see all this submerged grass,” he said, pointing at large swaths of thick, long grass under the surface. “Just a couple of weeks ago, that was nothing but slick rock, but the water is so low that it has allowed the sunlight to penetrate the water and aid that grass in growing so thick.”
While these thick mats of grass hinder anglers from using certain lures in those areas, it opens up possibilities that they may not have tried before. “Mepps spinners were the star of the show right here a few weeks ago, but you can’t cast one in there now without it fouling immediately,” said McSwain. He has a solution though. “The grass doesn’t come all the way to the surface, and with anywhere from 6-inches to 18-inches of clean water between the surface and the grass, it’s a prime spot for throwing topwater lures,” he said.
Sometimes the smallmouth are hunkered down in the grass. Other times, they are swimming just above it. Either way, they won’t hesitate to hit a surface plug like a Heddon Super Spook, especially if there is cloud cover or a good ripple on the water’s surface. “Anything that makes it more difficult for the fish to get a clear look at a topwater lure is prime time to use something like a Spook or a Rebel Pop-R. Cloudy skies are ideal, but even on bright clear days, topwater lures can be just as effective when retrieved through rippling water. The ripples keep the bass from getting too close of a look, but allow them to see just enough of the lure to cause a reaction strike,” he said.
Sometimes these strikes are violent, with the fish hitting the lure so hard that it sounds like a tree falling into the water. Less often, it’s a gentle slurp that is easy to miss for anglers who aren’t paying close attention. “This is the most fun way to catch smallies here,” said McSwain.
But, it’s not the only way, and McSwain will attest that it’s not usually even the most productive method. “These surface lures shine in the late afternoon and evenings, and even though they can get bites at high noon when fished properly, Mepps inline spinners just flat-out work better than any other lure, day after day after day,” he said. Number 3s, 4s, and 5s are all good bets, and McSwain has had a lot of success recently on the TRU-V colors, which are UV-enhanced and reflect UV light in the same way that baitfish do.
Anywhere shoals are present, strong ripples are also present. This is where McSwain likes to cast upriver at a 45-degree angle toward either shore. Ideally on each cast, he wants to retrieve the spinner through calm water, then rippling water, then through an eddy. “Smallmouth love all those spots, and they really love to be able to move in and out of each distinct area quickly, so on those retrieves, you’re on the verge of getting hit all the way back to the boat,” said McSwain.
The spinners are also effective in long, deep holes that are located between shallow areas. McSwain calls these areas “lanes,” and said anglers should never pass one of these up without making a handful of casts. “Especially right now when the water is low, these deep lanes can hold a lot of fish and produce plenty of catches,” he said.