GO Angling: Episode 2 – Smallmouth Bass Fishing

Go Angling Ep 2

In this episode of GO Angling, Gander Outdoors teamed up with In-Depth Outdoors to bring you fisher James Holst near Escanaba, MI, who teaches us how to effectively fish for early season smallmouth bass.

Gear Guide for Smallmouth Bass Fishing

Having the right fishing kit is the key to catch smallmouth bass, and James knows what objects will most effectively do the job.


A 50-60-degree temperature is ideal for catching smallmouth bass.

Marabou Jig:

“Absolutely deadly,” James said. “These are a must-have.” For a similar product, try the Mepps Musky Marabou Tandem Spinner, 1-1/4 oz.


Tubes are the ubiquitous bait that everyone throws at bass.

“There are some subtle variations that you want to take into account for early season smallmouth,” James said. “Mostly, it’s around size. The tubes that we look for are 2 ½” to 2 ¾” in length, and they’re actually not very easy to find. Most tackle shops won’t carry them.”

Fortunately, Gander Outdoors carries the exact model at 2 ½ inches, and in a variety of colors, too. Shop shades ranging from gold to watermelon glitter. These sell out fast, so be sure to get them early.

Small Swimbaits:

Best for late summer, these baits come in colorful shades, ranging from Chartreuse Ice to Tru Blue.

The key to using this type of bait, James said, is to fish it slowly.

“Let that tail, that boot at the end of the bait do the work for you,” James said. “Those smallmouth will gobble them up.”

X-Rap Bait:

“One of my favorite baits is a No. 10 X- Rap,” James said. “If you’re on a river that’s a little bit more open, this very often produces the biggest fish that we catch each Spring.”

Available in the most amount of colors, this bait can be purchased in teal to red to green and comes in three sizes—2 1/2”, 3 1/8”, and 4”.

Choosing Between Mono and Braid Lines

A large part of the smallmouth bass angling adventure is making sure you have the right equipment. The bait is not the only equipment to pay attention to.

Although none of the items used for this angling trip are difficult, expensive, or hard to find, you will need a few different things.

Medium light action rods allow the hook to be driven home right away. Okuma rails, each spooled differently, allow for minimal stretch, which is ideal for this type of angling.

James also uses two different types of line: braided and monofilament.

“The braided line has very minimal stretch and a very fine diameter,” James said. This type of line is best for catching more lightweight fish.

A monofilament line, however, has a thicker diameter and more stretch.

“I use this line when I want to keep the bait out of real heavy cover,” James said.

Giant Smallmouth Bass in a Tiny River

Using a boat out in Green Bay, Wisconsin off Lake Michigan, James, and friend PJ Vick headed up one of the tributaries that flow into Green Bay in what is actually Escanaba, Michigan, and caught plenty of smallmouth bass.

The first was caught by PJ, who showed the bait he used to catch the bass before releasing it back into the water gently.

“The conditions this spring have just been so up and down,” James said. “Those big bodies of water like Green Bay just haven’t been warming up. The warmest waters are up in the river.”

Catching numerous fish, including a pregnant mother, the friends found the most by trees and in the current, where fish are more active.

When it comes to catching more fish, James emphasized the equipment (especially the lure) that was used.

“The Marabou jig is used by a lot of Great Lakes smallmouth anglers,” James said. “Underwater it creates a buggy- looking creature, which smallmouth love.”

Out of the package, the lure looks a lot like a little black puffball. Once it’s in the water, it comes alive and is the perfect tool for catching smallmouth bass.

Do you have any thoughts or questions? If so, leave a comment below. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.