Lake Superior Smallmouth
by Chris Beeksma
Editor's note: Chris Beeksma is a Mepps Field Staff member and owner of Get Bit Guide Service (715)-372-8622 Iron River, WI. Chris specializes in smallmouth bass fishing on Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay.
Smallmouth Bass Fishing on Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay can start as early as the first week of May. The prespawn and spawning areas are large shallow flats that include deeper wood and weed areas that warm up quickly in the spring and tempt the Bays smallmouths. I like to fish the deep edges and even deeper entrance way into the sloughs with baits that can be worked slowly to match the metabolism of the fish. Top picks are Exude FAT tubes in brown and green hues and #3 plain Mepps Aglias in silver and gold. This may be the best time of year to catch the biggest smallmouth of your life as the egg laden females trickle their way into the bedding areas.
As the water warms into the upper 50's and low 60's the smallmouths make a major movement into the shallows looking for prime bedding sites among the wood of Chequamegon Bay. What is unique about the Bay is that the spawn takes place over a two month period of time. In the beginning of June you can be fishing for prespawn, spawning and possibly post spawn fish all at the same time.
Lure choice during the spawn and post spawn periods still include the slower moving baits but now is also the time to start triggering protective instincts with faster moving lures. One of the top baits during this period is #4 dressed Mepps Aglia with a firetiger blade and yellow tail. Don't pass up using the #3 and #4 Aglias in plain silver and gold as they also still catch the fancy of these spawning fish.
One of the newest and hottest lures on the Bay is Mepps #3 silver Aglia Streamer with a white Streamer and stinger hook. This lures combines the vibration and flash of the classic Mepps Aglia blade with the subtle and lifelike swimming action of a hand-tied streamer. It can be worked at any speed and, and when it comes to catching Chequamegon Bay smallies, it is absolutely dynamite.
Soft plastic lures also work well at this time. Again, a good choice is the Mister Twister Exude FAT Tube, or the Exude SalaTube. These lures shine early, and as the fish start their post spawn feed the Exude RT Slug really provokes aggressive strikes. Mister Twister Exude lures are the only soft plastic lures that are actually made from fish food. They leave a a slime trail in the water that "calls" fish.
As the water warms into the upper 60's and low 70's the fish go on a minnow feeding binge which again has the angler using fast moving baits. Burning #4 Aglias just under the surface and erratically fished Mister Twister Exude RT slugs will have the smallies chasing hard and fast.
Most of the Bay's smallmouths move out into deep water after the spawn and now is the time to search for deep weeds and rock structures. These are usually found in 10-15 feet of water. Though live bait will take fish, you will find the #4 plain Aglias continue to work well in and on the edges of the weed beds. A #5 plain Aglia with a silver, gold, or copper blade is also excellent fished slowly along the bottom over the Bays rock piles. If you see smallies chasing minnows over the top of the weed patches tie on a #3 silver Aglia Streamer with white tail and you will be using an almost perfect minnow imitator.
Fall fishing on the Bay may be the best for both numbers and size though as in summer deep water comes into play. Yes it is great excitement to catch the Bays smallies on spinners and topwater baits but these fish will open your eyes when they come flying out of the water after setting the hook on a fish that was 20 ft. down. My favorite fall technique on the Bay has always been the use of jigging spoons. The Mepps Syclops fits this bill perfectly.
If you haven't fished jigging spoons in the fall you have to give it a try. I have done very well fishing deep weed beds and rock edges using silver or gold Mepps #1 (1/2 oz.) Syclops spoons. In depths of 25-40 feet the #2 (5/8 oz.) Syclops works well. When the fish are schooled up in one particular spot, try "sandwiching" two #1 Syclops front to back with split rings. This makes a compact fast-sinking spoon that wastes no time getting down to the hungry smallies. A vertical presentation will work on a calm day and you have excellent boat control, but I prefer to "cover water." I like to cast, let it fall to bottom, then rip it up 1-3 feet. I do this all the way back to the boat, making sure to let the spoon settle back to bottom after each lift. In addition to smallmouth this tactic also produces a lot of trophy walleyes and northern pike.
Fishing remains excellent throughout the fall until the water temperature falls to the mid to upper 30's. Fishing slows down as the fish "rest" before the Bay freezes over. Smallmouth fishing regulations on Chequamegon Bay allow fishing year-around, but during the winter no fish can be kept. Be sure to check out the latest Wisconsin fishing regulations manual if you are not sure of minimum size and daily bag limits.
Chequamegon Bay is a fantastic fishery for smallmouths, walleyes and northern pike. Fishing regulations and the release ethic of anglers should keep this fishery one of the best for years to come. When you bring your Mepps to Chequamegon Bay remember to also bring your camera. You are nearly guaranteed success with the lures I personally use when fishing the Bay. Good Luck and Be safe!