Smallmouth bass fishing on Panther Pond, Raymond, Maine (August 14, 2017)

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The sun is setting and the surface commotion is gone. It’s time for the smallmouth bass to grab dinner before dark!

Catching smallmouth bass in ponds or lakes during high summer in Maine can be a real challenge, even for the experienced angler. The surface water is warm (75° to 80°F), the sun is bright, and the human activity levels can be intense as a result of water skiing, jet skiing, pontoon boating, or power boating. The fish seek shelter 15 to 25 ft below the surface to locate cooler water, hide from the sun, and find respite from all the human commotion above. Unlike the nippier and less hectic spring months, when the smallmouth bass congregate and concentrate in large numbers along bouldery shorelines for the annual spawn, the summer bronzebacks are scattered over a much larger area and in deeper water. That makes them intrinsically more difficult to find and catch.

 

 

The Down Deep Husky Jerk by Rapala is the lure to use to catch smallmouth bass by trolling in deeper off-shore waters

One approach to hook these weary fish is to move further offshore over deeper water using lures that can get close to or on the bottom, such as a crawfish jig, a deep-diving crankbait, or a soft stickbait on a drop shot.  One limitation of this general approach, at least from my perspective, is that one either spends a lot of time slowly fishing a relatively small area (e.g., plastic crawfish, soft stickbait) or expends much energy and effort constantly retrieving a deep-diving crankbait. Instead, I like to troll over 15 to 25 ft deep water using a deep-diving Down Deep Husky Jerk Rapala.

 

Giovanni caught the first fish of the evening

The extended lip at the front of this lure causes it to dive 10 to 14 ft below the surface when trolled at about 2.5 to 3 miles per hour. The build-in rattle calls in fish from far away. The trick consists in constantly jerking the bait forward to give it its unique erratic action and noise pattern which will trigger a reaction bite. The neutral buoyancy designed into this lure causes it to remain suspended between jerks, instead of immediately bobbing back up towards the surface like a “normal” Rapala or crankbait would do. That way, the lure stays in the strike zone all the time and acts unpredictably in response to the constant jerking. Trolling is also efficient because it covers a lot of real estate in a relatively short amount of time. Keep in mind that this approach ideally requires a depth finder in order to located and remain over the 15 to 25 ft depth zone. In my experience, the best time to use this summer tactic is one hour before sunset.  By then, the harsh light levels have greatly softened and the surface commotion has largely subsided as people head home for dinner. The fish below are stirring in anticipation of the upcoming sunset and their last opportunity to grab a bite to eat before darkness falls.

 

This big boy definitely makes my evening!!

My 8-year grandson Giovanni asked earlier if he could go smallmouth bass fishing with me. I decide to stack the odds in our favor by applying the strategy outlined above. We reach Panther Pond in Raymond, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 B2), at 6:30 pm. Sunset this evening occurs at 7:45 pm. I have just over an hour to make the plan work. That amount of fishing time is also just long enough not to bore the little guy and retain his interest. I position the boat over 18 ft of water after we work our way onto the lake from the rough launch off Mill Street (by the outlet). I cast our lures out, and start trolling at 3 MPH. Within a minute, Giovanni yelps that he has a fish! Jeez, the plan is working out better than I expected! Sure enough, he hooked a 14” bass which angrily resists coming to the boat. That is a fantastic start. Over the next half hour, Giovanni gets another hit and I get two, but no hook-ups. Regardless, the fish are definitely active down there. I then get a tremendous hit! I fight and land a fat 19” bronzeback which definitely makes my day. I cap off the evening with an additional white perch. It’s now approaching 8 pm and getting dark fast. We need to turn around and get back home. I’m happy with the results: five strikes and three fish in just over an hour of fishing. Giovanni complains that he didn’t catch more fish. Patience, buddy, your time will come.

 

The results: I landed one smallmouth bass (19”) and a white perch, and Giovanni landed a 14” smallmouth bass in just over an hour of fun evening fishing.

 

Panther Pond also contains large schools of fat white perch that will gladly grab a suspending jerk bait!

 

Was the information in this blog useful? I invite you to share your thoughts and opinions. Also, feel free to discuss your fishing experiences at this location.

 

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