One of the most frequent questions, I get asked by my clients….do I need to spend a lot of money on equipment to fish for smallmouth bass? The answer is a resounding NO! One of the reasons smallmouth bass fishing is gaining popularity is you don't need to specialize your fishing equipment to catch smallmouth. Expensive rods and reels costing hundreds of dollars are nice if you can afford them, but in today's economy anglers should be looking for good reliable equipment at a modest price. There is plenty of equipment out there that is very functional and affordable. As far as rods and reels go start with one or two complete spinning outfits, your third combo should be a bait casting outfit.
REELS: The main function of a reel is to cast and collect line. Spinning and bait casting reels both have applications when chasing smallmouth bass. In selecting either spinning or bait casting reel, a quality drag system, weight and line capacity must be considered. A quality drag system allows you fight the fish without breaking your line and the lightness of the reel lets you fish longer with minimal fatigue. As far as how many yards of line are concerned, seldom will you need more than 130-150 yard capacity.
Spinning Reels: Hands down my number one choice of reels for smallmouth angling is the spinning reel! If I were to have only one rod/ reel setup it would be spinning! Also remember that a spinning outfit will have multiple uses i.e. pan fish, walleye and other species. Select a reel that has a good drag system and is light in weight. It should be capable of handling 6 to 10 lb test DIAMETER. Why might you ask diameter vs pound test? Since the introduction of super braided lines a few years ago, spinning reels were mostly equipped with light fishing lines. For example many braided lines like Spider Wire Stealth has a 30 pound test rating but the diameter of 8lb test. This allows one to fish larger baits in heavy cover that seemed impossible with spinning reels not long ago. Also, reels have really evolved in the last few years….reels today costing less than $60.00 are far better then reels made some 7 or 8 years ago costing perhaps $150.00.
Reels to consider are: Abu Garcia's Cardinal 500 ALBI at $70.00, or the Cardinal 300 that retails for $40.00. I personally have owned several of the Cardinal 300 and to this day cannot believe how smooth the drag is and how reliable the reel is.
Bait Casting Reels: Bait casters are great for fishing with heaver baits and stronger line. Spinner baits, buzz baits, top water lures are ideal for bait casting. There are some very nice reels in the market place that sell for under $100.00. The Pro Max, Silver Max is very affordable reels from Abu Garcia, the Pflueger Trion and Shakespeare Purist also deserves consideration. All are under the $100.00 price range.
RODS: Choose a one or two piece rod in the 6.5 to 7 foot length in a medium to medium heavy action. If you transport your rods in a small car vs a boat or larger vehicle consider a two piece rod for obvious reason. Shakespeare's Ugly Stick and Berkley's Lightning Rods are good examples of rods in the under $55.00 price range. If your budget allows you to upgrade your rod, Berkley's Series One rods sell for around $100.00. If you have a few more bucks in your budget and can't decide whether to spend it on a rod or reel, my advice is…spend it on the ROD!
FISHING LINE: Bet when you were last at your favorite sporting goods store to buy fishing string you were overwhelmed by the number of types, brands and costs. This can be very confusing even to the most seasoned angler. But to keep it simple you only need to know a couple things as it pertains to fishing line.
1. If you are fishing tube jigs, grubs, creature baits or other baits that are designed to be fished on the bottom, then fluorocarbon is my choice. Fluorocarbon sinks, has good abrasion resistance and has very little stretch….all these properties can mean more fish!
2. If you're fishing top water, floating or other surface baits then the braided lines or just plain old monofilament will work.
3. Pound Test for spinning should be 6 to 10 pound test or equivalent diameter. Bait casters should be spooled with 12 to 17 pound test monofilament or braided line.
LURES: Here's where it gets fun. Some one once said that lures are designed to catch the fish and the fisherman…this couldn't be truer. Here is my "starter lure kit" for beginning smallmouth bass fisherman.
Jigs heads: Darter head, tube and football lead head jigs are a must. Purchase a dozen of each type in the following sizes. Hook size 3/0 or 4/0 in 1/8, 3/16, and1/4 ounce will get you started.
Soft plastics: Grab a couple bags of 3" & 4" tubes, 4" or 5" grubs and a package of sinking stick baits. Colors should be green pumpkin, watermelon, and pumpkin, all with red, copper, or gold flakes.
Top water lures: These baits work well when water temps are about 70 degrees. Get a couple Zara Spooks in baby bass, frog or white in 4 or 5 inch. Poppers such as the Berkley Frenzy Poppercan also be very effective in the same colors as the zara spooks.
That's about it…pretty simple….remember start slow with the basics, and as you become more experienced and start to form your own preferences you can add to your arsenal crank baits, and a larger variety of soft plastic lures. Remember you can fish like a pro without breaking the bank. Function not expensive is the name of the smallmouth bass game.
Jim DaRosa has been chasing smallmouth and largemouth bass from Mexico to Minnesota for the past 45 years. Jim spends over 100 days a year guideing/fishing for smallies on Mille Lacs in Minnesota. In addition, he co host the Fishing Line and Outdoor Radio Show one of the longest running outdoor radio shows in the nation. For more information about Jim's guiding services please visit www.FishSmallmouthBass.com or his radio show at www.FishingLineRadio.com