The Smallmouth Bass has very different characteristics than its larger cousin the Largemouth Bass. You must adjust your fishing style accordingly if you wish to have success fishing for this species. In the following paragraphs I will illustrate the differences between these two species in both lake and river habitats.
In lakes, Smallmouth Bass exhibit two main differences in the areas they choose to spend most of their time in.
Smallmouth Bass prefer much deeper water than Largemouth Bass. You will rarely catch a Smallmouth Bass in water that is three to six feet deep. Largemouth Bass on the other hand are caught quite regularly in these areas. The optimal water depth for Smallmouth Bass has proven to be ten to fifteen feet deep.
Smallmouth Bass prefer a gravel bottom. For cover nothing beats a large rock or series of rocks. Largemouth Bass tend to congregate more towards weed lines to forage. This explains their preference in food. Smallmouth Bass often feed on crustaceans that inhabit the rocky areas they prefer. They will of course eat small fish as well, but definitely prefer creatures such as leeches and crayfish that dwell at or near the bottom. Largemouth Bass on the other hand feed primarily on smaller fish, but also will eat bugs, frogs and other creatures that inhabit the surface areas of the water.
We can use this information to develop the proper fishing technique to catch Smallmouth Bass. For starters we can forget about spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and other artificial baits that are best used at or near the surface. The Smallmouth Bass is a creature that feeds deep, it does not like to swim towards the surface to feed. The prudent Smallmouth Bass fisherman should head to the lake with deep diving crankbaits, jig and pig combos and plastic worms that can be fished at or near the bottom of the lake.
Another trait of the Smallmouth Bass is that it is a much more aggressive feeder than the Largemouth Bass. They prefer fast moving baits and are definitely sight feeders. Largemouth Bass can be either sight or sound feeders.
When the fishing venue changes to a river you must again alter your fishing approach between each species. Rivers are the preferred habitat for Smallmouth Bass. In most cases you will not find deep water in rivers. Smallmouth Bass being an adaptable species now use the current to find a preferred place to hunt.
In rivers you will find Smallmouth Bass in areas of the river with the fastest current. The key is to determine which areas of high current are better than others.