Bass Season Underway
Inside the Outdoors, June 24
, 2011

Not long ago, I happened to hear a talk given by Denny Tubbs, aquatic resources program specialist for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. His topic centered around smallmouth bass. Since bass season started last Saturday, June 18, I thought I’d highlight some of the pointers he brought to the table during his presentation.

“I started fishing for smallmouth bass with my dad,” he said in his opening paragraph. “ I found that the smallmouth bass was my favorite fish.” Even though largemouth and smallmouth season is now in full swing, I will talk about the smallmouth species in particular.

Tubbs stated that this fish has always been native to the Ohio River watershed. Its population grew as the railroads flourished in that area. “Wherever the trains went, fish were dumped in,” he said.

He went on to point out that some people call smallmouth bass the bronze back because of the color of their skin.

Tubbs then went on to describe the conditions whereby these fish like to exist.

“These fish like 60 to 70 degree water. Their dwelling preference is three to four feet of water. As long as the water is clear, they will spawn as low as 20 feet down.”

All fish have habitat preferences. Smallmouth are no different. Tubbs said, “In streams and lakes these fish like rocky conditions, because that is where they can find crayfish, a popular food of theirs. Crayfish are rich in protein. For that reason, it may be safe to say that it is one of the fish’s favorite foods.”

“Smallmouth love moving current,” he said. “They need oxygen and get it from the cooler waters.” He noted that the food will be found in these locations.

I learned the habitat and conditions of where this species of bass are found. But more importantly, for fisherman, they want to know where to catch these fish. Tubbs educated his audience as to the facts.

Smallmouth will hang around bridge pilings and piers. “Look for the ripples on the water and chances are bass will in the current,” he said.

As to river fishing, he said, “The highest concentration of bass will be below the dams.”

Tubbs told of a story whereby he took Tribune Review Outdoor Editor Bob Frye and his son out on a fishing excursion. “The boy brought a large bucket of worms. He thought he was going to catch lots of fish. I used a silicon minnow imitation. Guess who caught the most fish?”

“Look, he caught another one,” was the youth’s exclamation. Worms weren’t doing a thing. The imitation did it every throw.

There are some pretty big fish to be caught at the various lakes in the area. Locally Tubbs said Keystone State Park Lake has four to five pound smallmouths in that basin of water. Surrounding lakes have also some large specimens to catch.

“Fish are not only getting better on the lakes, but bigger as well.” That ought to pump any angler’s adrenaline.

So where should one search for these fish to catch them?

Tubbs recommends looking for structure, edge of weeds and downed trees. “Your catching rate will go up when you fish around these places,” he said.

The Southwest Region specialist then referred to types of lures that would work best particularly if one were fishing in the rivers. “Jigs, such as football shaped ones, are a good lure to use because their record indicates that they catch fish constantly. Other lures include wacky worms, worms on rigs, tubes and crank baits.” In comparing the latter two, he said, “Crank baits are making a comeback. Tubes are not as popular anymore. However, if one were to use them, choose those with two-toned, white or light bottoms, for example. I found them to work the best.” To get the baits down deeper, he suggested the use of drop shot weights.

Others lures include jointed baits, red-eye shads, rattle traps and white spinner baits. “Plastic worms always work on the rivers,” he said.

He concluded by saying, “There is a lot of good fishing at Raccoon and Keystone State Parks. We are receiving a lot of good reports from Loyalhanna Dam. There is a lot of good structure there as well as big smallmouths to catch.”

- Paul J. Volkmann
You can contact me by email