Dog Days Can Be Smallmouth Bass Days

During the long, hot days of August most bass anglers wouldn’t even consider fishing for smallmouth bass. As a rule, these fish prefer cooler water temperatures than their warm-water loving cousins, the largemouth bass.

Typically, if you were to pursue smallies in the middle of summer, you would find them in the deepest pockets of your favorite lake or pond, and unlike their closest of kin, they always are not so easily caught after dark.

However, if you have a hankering to hook-up with a powerful smallmouth bass in New England, I highly recommend you plan your next excursion for the waters of the Merrimack River in New Hampshire. The river is perfectly suited for smallmouth because it offers plenty of structure and ample ambush sites. And the swift current helps keep the water temperatures quite mild and oxygen rich.

Arriving at the river’s edge on Sunday morning, I could still feel the chill of the night air as it escaped the surrounding forest and gently flowed across the surface of the river.

Low Water Level
The water level of the Merrimack was very low, but this was not especially unusual for this time of the year. On this morning, there was not a cloud in the sky, the current was kind, and I knew that it wouldn’t be long before the heat of the day would drive me off of the river and into the nearest shady spot.

The author holds up a Merrimack smallmouth.

I had two options: I could let the river pull me along her natural course, casting for bass as I drifted downstream and then return under power; or I could motor upriver and work the shoreline as I slowly returned to the launch site.

I decided to put the throttle down and quickly, yet cautiously avoided the many boulders and obstructions to head upstream to the fast water just above the small islands that lay to the north.

I reached the pool just below a set of rapids adjacent to an area known as Reed’s Ferry in no time at all. Even though I passed muskrats, turtles and herons along the way, never once did I pass another manned vessel. It was apparent that I would have the river all to myself on this day. The rush of water as it tumbled over ancient rock formations and the serenade of songbirds in the surrounding trees were the only sounds to be heard once the Mercury engine came to a halt.

What made this wilderness feel truly amazing is the fact that this part of the Merrimack River flows within minutes of southern New Hampshire’s most heavily populated hamlets. I felt far removed from the asphalt jungle and at peace with the river flowing beneath me.

On this day the water surface was as flat as the tire on my old truck and the sun shone bright. Given these conditions I decided to fish close to the river bottom where I figured the fish would be snugged up tight amid the shadows provided by the numerous rocks that lay below. I rigged my line with a 1/4-ounce jig head and a 3-inch curl-tailed grub. Slowly skipping this lure over the submerged stones, I was successful in hooking up with a few beautiful yet somewhat small jumpers, but the day was off to a good start and little did I know, the best was yet to come.

Targeting Timber
As I rounded one of the many bends in the river, the rocks began to disappear and fallen timber now became the casting targets. At this point, I decided to retire my grub as fishing this type of structure is difficult at best. It would have been hard to avoid snagging with a sinking lure and an exposed hook. I tied on my all-time favorite lure for river smallies, which under the right circumstances, is a can’t-miss presentation.

I cast my No. 14 gold Bomber tight up into the shade and high above the sunken limbs, then gave the floating lure a gentle twitch. Almost instantly a fish exploded just behind the lure and I held my breath. Continuing to slowly work the lure, again the fish made another passing blow, but missed the bait. My patience and self-control won out as the next strike produced a hook-up. Taking to the air, I caught my first glimpse of this marvelous creature and after a few more spectacular leaps, he would be landed and released.

Many more smallmouth were brought to the boat using this top-water technique and I could not have had more fun in just a few short morning hours on such a hot summer day. If you too are in the mood for some summertime smallies, then the Merrimack River in Merrimack, N.H., is sure to be a destination marked on your fishing map.

For a fine assortment of Freshwater fishing gear, click here.

Leave a Reply

Commenting Policy - We encourage open expression of your thoughts and ideas. But there are a few rules:

No abusive comments, threats, or personal attacks. Use clean language. No discussion of illegal activity. Racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally hateful comments are not tolerated. Keep comments on topic. Please don't spam.

While we reserve the right to remove or modify comments at our sole discretion, the Sportsman's Guide does not bear any responsibility for user comments. The views expressed within the comment section do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of The Sportsman's Guide.