3 Lures to Catch Late Summer Smallmouth

Major League Fishing Tackle Warehouse professional angler Grae Buck doesn’t see the heat of summer as a deterrent to catching big summer smallmouth bass. While the second half of summer can be hot, so can the smallmouth bass fishing.

Many believe that smallmouth are impossible to catch during the hottest days of summer, but Buck quickly dismisses that notion. “Many smallmouth are nomadic, which makes them impossible to pattern. They can be at any depth and suspend. But if you find them, it will be a special deal!”

Finding Late Summer Smallmouth Bass

Since the likelihood of finding these nomads is miniscule, Buck focuses on more reliable fish. “I look for these summer smallmouth on steep breaklines adjacent to spawning flats. A perfect scenario would be a quick drop from 20 to 40 feet deep.”

One consistency of smallmouth bass is they always think with their stomachs, “Bait and alewives like these areas, which keeps the smallmouth around too.”

Many lakes and rivers across the country now have an abundance of the invasive goby. “Gobies can be at any depth too, but especially like to hang out around rock.” Crayfish, Buck believes, is a forage smallmouth mostly eat during the spring months.

Bait on the smallmouth’s menu is how Buck determines lure selection.

Buck at the MLF Toyota Series on Lake Champlain in July

3 Lures to Catch Late Summer Smallmouth

“Without question, this is the first bait I sling at smallmouth. It does a great job of mimicking baitfish but also gobies.”

“Your boat puts pressure and stress on fish, so I try to keep my boat as far away from the fish as possible, so I make long casts,” Buck contends. “Believe it or not, the less action you put on the bait is usually the best. Natural wave action is best, even if it is just a slight ripple. So normally I hold it in place and let Mother Nature do the work.” You can’t get more natural than Mother Nature! For stubborn fish, “I might shake it in place, but it’s only a slight quiver.”

Tackle for the Drop Shot

“To make those long casts, I use a Favorite Jack Hammer 721 Medium Heavy spinning rod with a Favorite Jack Hammer spinning rod (JHM2500). Many other anglers prefer medium action, but the medium-heavy action handles big fish better, which gives me an advantage since I spend most of my time on the Great Lakes and other trophy smallmouth fisheries. The 2500 size reel picks up line faster, which also helps control big fish.”

Buck spools his reel with 15-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid line but adds a 10-foot leader of 8- pound test Seaguar Gold Label fluorocarbon line. “This line is actually made to be a leader, and it is the best I’ve ever used.” If he is fishing an area with a lot of zebra mussels, he will beef his leader up to 10-pound fluorocarbon.

He ties on a size 2 Hayabusa DSR132 Finesse Hook 12-18 inches above the weight, and his favorite bait is a Z-Man Trick ShotZ. “It’s 3 ½ inches long, which mimics both baitfish and gobies. My favorite colors are green pumpkin and Bad Shad.”

When it comes to weights, Buck begins with a ¼ ounce weight, but will go heavier in strong winds. “Around rock I use the teardrop-shaped weight by Angler Tungsten, but around weeds, I’ll use a cylinder-shaped weight.”

Buck explains, “This is my top choice when fish are focused on the bottom. I figure this out by keeping an eye on my electronics. It’s also telling if there aren’t any fish coming to the surface. When they’re focused on the bottom, they are likely feeding on gobies and the Ned does a good job of replicating them.” 

“This [Ned Rig] is my top choice when fish are focused on the bottom. I figure this out by keeping an eye on my electronics. It’s also telling if there aren’t any fish coming to the surface. When they’re focused on the bottom, they are likely feeding on gobies and the Ned does a good job of replicating them.”

ZMAN Finnesse TRD in The Deal

Buck is also more structure oriented with the Ned Rig. “I’m still making long casts, but trying to throw it at boulders, wood, gravel, and other structures. Then it’s a slow drag back to the boat.”

His tackle is identical to the drop shot except he uses a Medium action 741 Favorite Jack Hammer spinning rod. “The medium action is softer and lets the fish get the bait deeper in their mouth before setting the hook. With heavier action, you tend to pull the bait away from them too soon.”

“I always use a Z-Man Finesse TRD and a Z-Man Ned LockZ HD.” Almost always he uses a ⅕ ounce. The exception is when fishing in 30 feet of water or deeper. In those cases, he uses a ⅓ ounce. His favorite colors are The Deal and Perfect Perch.

“Wherever the gobies are big, like the size of your hand, I will use the 4-inch Big TRD.”

ZMAN Finesse TRD in Bubble Gum

“Sometimes smallmouth roam the shallows,” Buck insists. This is especially true on sunny days. Add some a little wind to the sun, and the often forgotten rattle trap gets the call. “It catches fish year-round, but many people forget about it after the pre-spawn.”

“When the conditions are right,” explains Buck, “I cover as much water as possible. The ones that come up are B.I.G.!” He will concentrate on depths between 6-2 feet deep, and since they are roaming, casting in every direction. “I’m burning it back to the boat with a 7.3 gear ratio Favorite Soleus XCS reel.”

Buck opts for the tried and true Bill Lewis Rat-l-Trap in chrome with a black back. The only adjustment he makes is swap out the factory hooks for a Hayabusa size 2 treble hooks. He ties it to 15-pound Seaguar InvisX fluorocarbon line and a Favorite Phantom 701 Cranking Rod carries the workload.

Grae Buck at the MLF St. Lawrence River tournament. Grae finished up with an 18lb bag.

Don’t let the heat scare you away from having a blast with summer smallmouth bass! Follow Buck’s tips and enjoy the aerodynamics and brute strength of that brown gold. 

Don’t forget to follow Grae Buck on his social media channels! 

Picture of Andrew Buss

Andrew Buss

Andrew Buss resides with his family in the great state of Indiana. When he’s not fishing, creating YouTube videos or running the Hunter of Fish Bass Circuit, he poses as a school teacher. If you’d like to see more from the #hunteroffish check out his social media channels.


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