Smallmouth bass, with their keen willingness to nab a variety of baits, lures, and flies, make a fantastic target for anglers of all skill levels. These fish may not match the size of their larger kin, but they put up a hearty fight pound-for-pound. Add to this their stunning mottled complexion, and it’s no wonder they captivate anglers worldwide.
World Record Smallmouth Bass, All Angling Record
The all-tackle world record for smallmouth bass is held by David Hayes, who caught a whopping 11 pounds, 15 ounces (5.41 kg) bass. This record-setting fish was reeled in at Dale Hollow Reservoir, Tennessee, in 1955 while David was trolling along the reservoir’s edges.
Dale Hollow Lake is renowned for its record-producing smallmouth bass, spawning some truly monstrous fish over the years. In fact, 3 of the heaviest fish on record hail from this lake.
Hayes’ record was mired in controversy when accusations of weight tampering at the dock surfaced. The dispute led to Hayes’ temporary disqualification, but over time, the truth prevailed, and his record was reinstated, standing unchallenged for 41 years.
Thirty years after Hayes’ record catch, Paul E. Beal hooked a 10 pound, 8-ounce smallmouth bass in the same waters of Dale Hollow, using a plastic grub. Terry Dodson, while using a diving plug, caught a 9 pound, 6-ounce bass at Lake Jocassee, South Carolina, in 2001. And in 1998, Dr. E. Scott Yarbo reeled in an 8 pound, 9-ounce smallmouth bass on the Counce, Tennessee, using a 3/8-ounce jig head.
World Record Smallmouth Bass on a Fly Rod
On the international stage, one of the most impressive game fish world records for smallmouth bass belongs to Meredith J. McCord. In 2018, she caught a 3-pound, 6-ounce bass, setting a new women’s 6-pound tippet class world record. McCord’s record fish was lured in with a surface popper and released safely after the catch.
While filming an outdoor show in 2014, Colin McKeown made a notable catch—a 7-pound bass measuring 22” long with a girth of over 15”. McKeown’s bass was lured by a white game-changer fished sub-surface, along with numerous other fish.
Understanding Smallmouth Bass
The Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu), native to the United States, is especially popular in the Northern region, particularly in the East. This beautiful, spotted species provides endless entertainment and excitement for anglers of all sorts, especially appreciated for its vigorous resistance once hooked.
Covered in small black spots, the smallmouth bass has an elongated, brownish-green body and a distinctive red eye that’s impossible to miss. Generally, these fish live for 10-12 years, with females typically out-growing the males.
When hooked, the smallmouth bass is known for its spectacular aerial acrobatics, often spitting the fly during these leaps. They prefer natural ecosystems and don’t fare well in captive waters. Larger bass are their primary predators.
Targeting Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth bass thrive in calm, clear waters with rocky bottoms—perfect for hiding. They often take cover in deep water between rocks, among water vegetation, or under the roots and limbs of sunken trees.
Your best chances of catching these fish are in the water system’s shadier parts, where they typically hold and move in and out to feed. They prefer water temperatures between 66 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (18-20 degrees Celsius).
Tips for Catching Smallmouth Bass on a Fly Rod
Fly fishing for bass during low light hours is recommended. While they can be caught at any time of the day, fishing early and late increases your chances of success.
Avoid the ‘trout set’ when fishing for bass. Instead, strip set the hook as you would when fly fishing in saltwater.
Don’t neglect the larger bodies of water. While instinct may lead you to focus on smaller, overgrown bodies of water, remember that bigger lakes can hold some monster fish. Break the water system down and fish it in sections, taking notes on all structures and surroundings.
When fishing with topwater flies like bugs and poppers, allow the tracking bass to inspect the fly. Often, they will strike just as you begin the strip again after a few seconds’ pause— a thrilling sight!
In low light conditions or after dark, don’t hesitate to use larger flies. During these times, an 8 wt rod and larger streamers can be quite effective.
Don’t overlook deeper pools. Big bass often hold in these areas. Use a sink tip fly line to get your streamer down to them.
What is the biggest smallmouth bass world record?
David Hayes holds the IGFA All-Tackle World Record for the largest smallmouth bass, caught on July 2nd, 1955 in Dale Hollow Lake, Tennessee. The fish weighed 11 lbs 15 oz (5.393 kg).
What is considered a trophy smallmouth bass?
A trophy smallmouth bass is typically any smallmouth bass over 18 inches (45.7 cm) in length.
What is the average lifespan of a smallmouth bass?
The average lifespan of a smallmouth bass is approximately 8 to 10 years.
While smallmouth bass may not compete in size with their larger relatives, they are undoubtedly in a league of their own when it comes to sheer fishing fun.
Their aggressive nature just before spawning in early spring makes them a thrilling target. Fishing with a 6 wt fly rod, you’ll experience the fierce fight they put up right until they’re netted.
Despite their toughness, please handle them with the same care you’d give a trout, ensuring they’ve adequately recovered from their fight before letting them swim off.
Good luck on your next smallmouth fishing adventure. Happy fishing and tight lines!
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