Bugs & Bronze

Our passion for chasing summertime smallies began at a young age upon old rusty paddle boats equipped with even older hand-me-down fishing rods from our father. At some point between the bluegills and rock bass we noticed dark football shapes lurking across the outskirts of deep rocky sand patches. Curiously we would throw out lines towards these fish watching as our night crawlers slowly sank rigged beneath baseball sized red and white ping-pong bobbers. It wasn't long before that wriggling night crawler captured their attention. The football shape hungrily rose towards our worm revealing its milky white throat and red eyes. Suddenly with little effort the bronze smallie opened its mouth and the nightcrawler disappeared. The fight that ensued would fuel fights for more than a decade. Today we chase those same hard fighters equipped with fly rods, less rusty motorboats, and a deeper more understanding passion for the bulky smallmouth bass.
There are few things quite like watching a smallmouth bass appear from the depths to suck in your own hand tied fly. The same also goes for when they refuse it. Or even worse yet, when they're slurping your buddy's fly like it's candy but flee from yours like it's hell itself. Whatever your situation is while chasing after smallmouth bass on the fly, you'll find yourself returning to tempt those bronze beasts over and over again. We certainly don't blame you. Summer after summer we have rushed out the door forgetting work, chores, and regrettably many times - sunscreen. Our walks to the boat filled with questions like "Are they up shallow yet?", or "Are they off their beds?". These questions would only be answered out there on the glass calm water, under high summer sun and heat.

Hunting big shouldered smallmouth with flies presents its own unique challenges. Because they live in such clear waters the first primary predatory sense smallies rely on is sight, making the color, presentation, and action of your fly the deciding factors on whether that hungry football will take what you're cooking. And by cooking we mean tying. It is also important to note that smallies have a fantastic sense of smell. How fantastic? Some believe even 1,000 times better than a dog can smell. We don't have to remind you how much better than humans dogs can smell (1,000 times better). Basically, smallies have some freaking amazing sniffers. So let that head cement dry and air out, or just give your fly a strong whip finish and it should be fine. For an edge, take the old timer approach and rub the fly in the mud or sand for a bit, or if the purist blood doesn't run through your veins, drop the fly in a bag of Gulp for a few seconds. 
Pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn are all great times to chase bronze, but our personal favorite is post-spawn for a few reasons.  Pre-spawn rarely falls within open bass seasons, at least in our neck of the woods, and you can throw anything at a big female during spawn and test out a hook without much finesse.  

Post spawn offers challenges, but is a riot when the conditions are right, and it also is the largest 'phase' of the summer.  There is nothing like attempting to balance in the highest spot of a boat, overlooking glass water with sun beating, while sight fishing cruising hogs from 20+ yards with a bug rod. It's pretty showy after a hookup when the smallmouth schools swarm after the hooked fish. Unfortunately it seems that the biggest fish within these schools never end up being the one tugging the hook!
Once a big bronzer gives the old Zebco a scream and pulls the paddleboat around in circles, it is hard to leave that encounter without a fire lit. The smallmouth continue to be one of our top mouths to hook, especially on the end of a fly rod.  For the fly guys out there, they provide some great opportunities to mix it up without changing your gear up too much. No matter what kind of gear you're toting, jigs, spinners, plugs or bugs - smallmouth will always put it to the test.  

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