If you haven't caught on yet - Badger Tenkara is just short of obsessed with fishing for Smallmouth Bass on Tenkara rods. Seriously - we are thrilled to live on some of America's most unique trout water, but we countdown to when the creeks warm up enough for the Bronzebacks to get fired up. I made it out over the weekend to fish a new section of a smaller river. Things started out so slow I almost packed it up and left - intermittent rains moved in and likely water wasn't producing. I told myself I'd fish one more likely run before heading back to the Jeep. Luckily...that is when the bite kicked in!
A Prime Run
The bass were most often positioned in 2-3 feet of water, with a rocky or sandy bottom and moderate current. The foam line was a solid indicator of where they chose to hold. Using the picture above as an example: I would move up the "calm" side and launch casts up and across into the near, center, and far side of the foam column. The larger fish seemed to hold in the lower quarter of the run, and fish size would decrease the further up the run I progressed. No fish were taken from fast water or riffles.
I used a mixed bag of patterns. The single most important factor seemed to be that they were white or silver. A few were picked up subsurface on weighted streamers but most hit on top.
And this is where I really had some fun - playing with different types of fly and rod manipulations to see what might draw strikes. Here are some observations on what worked and what did not -
1) Fast, straight line strips didn't seem to generate interest. Whether across the surface or below, they didn't want anything on a straight line sprint.
2) Patterns designed to look like baitfish still produce well when dead-drifted. The bass were willing to hit a dead "floater" for an easy snack.
3) A great way to impart lifelike baitfish action to a fly is to trace the alphabet with your extended fingertip that is gripping the rod. Use very small motions, like you are writing with your your finger nail. The variations in the shape produce a random, darting, skittering motion that looks natural and draws strikes!
4) Adding a small twitch just after the cast lands makes for a big splashy "here I am, eat me!" presentation that really draws attention. Be careful to keep the twitch small so you do not pull the fly out of the strike zone - I missed a few fish because I went too big and yanked the fly away from the bass that was coming up to crush it!
The last fish I caught was a savage - he put me and my CLASSIC rod to the test and when I got him to the net, I was shocked to see he was a good 17 inches - an absolute beast for a creek bass! I was so stoked! I got the whole fight on video and a great close up of this red-eyed monster in the net before I sent him on his way.
But then I got home and went to watch the footage.
In any case, it was a great day out! These bass are tenacious fighters and by the end of the day you'll feel like you've gone 10 rounds with the champ. NOTHING fights like a smallmouth on the hook, and catching them on Tenkara rods is an absolute thrill ride!