Leeches for Smallmouth Bass

There’s (the good news is) no have to strike the bait look for a tub of bloodsuckers when you load these leech imitations.

I dropped the jig tipped with a synthetic leech to the bottom as Fred Matero and I fished the North Branch of the Raritan River, his Mad River Canoe practically still in the sluggish stretch of water. I waited, slowly reeling up the slack, when I felt a tap after 20 seconds of dead-sticking. I set the hook into another smallmouth bass, making me more confident about the efficiency of leech replica baits.

Smallmouth bass are opportunists when it comes to feeding, especially during the summertime. They feed on a wide range of bugs, crayfish, minnows, chubs and panfish. Though leeches are strong swimmers, they are no match for predatory fish like the smallmouth bass. A swimming leech makes an easy target for smallies, and they are one of the fish’s favorite meals.

Twister-tail grubs and paddle-tail baits create a lot of vibration in the water, sometimes excessive. The subtle action of a leech replica is more detailed to that of a live leech and draws strikes from fish that have declined other “louder” draws. Artificial leeches, when enabled to drop through the water column or obtained with slow sweeps of the rod, are fatal baits for smallmouth bass.

Synthetic leeches are 2 to 5 inches long and have actually tapered, flattened bodies. Aromatic leeches, like the Berkley Gulp Leech, Slimers Pal Juicy Bait and the Mann’s PROtein are the most popular.

Smallmouths eat leeches in the shallows of lakes and rivers, especially where plant life edges approximately rocks and brush, however jig-and-synthetic-leech combinations are effective to depths of 25 feet or more with much heavier jig weights of 1/4 to 3/8 ounces. I primarily use unpainted 1/8-ounce jigheads on a 5 1/2- foot medium-power spinning rod matched to a reel loaded with 6-pound test. In extremely shallow water, I use 1/16-ounce jigs.

Make certain the jigheads have needle-sharp, light-wire hooks. A much heavier gauge hook has the tendency to tear a hole in a smallie’s mouth, making the fish more likely to shake the hook. A hook with a broad space assists make a more protected hookset.

Leeches are deep olive or black in coloration, so I use lures near to their natural color.

Locations and Techniques for Fishing Leeches

For smallmouth bass, a jig-and-leech-imitation combination can work on any structure, whenever of day. During winter, leeches go dormant and are absent from the smallmouth diet, so synthetic leeches are best used as a warm-water discussion.

I find the jig and leech to be specifically reliable on bright summer season days when bass are not feeding greatly. The jig and leech seems an easy meal, and the bass leisurely swim up to draw it down. I feel a tick on the line and rear back. A bass jumps moments later.

Bass struck the leeches plenty with clouds in the sky, but if they are feeding strongly (triggered by an approaching front, maybe) or the fish are feeding on the surface at dawn or dusk, other lures may produce more action.

Whether you’re fishing a river, stream, reservoir or lake, smallmouths relate to rocky habitats, and typically the bigger the rocks, the better. I think that by tapping the jighead against rock, I can get the attention of a bass, whether I’m fishing a flat bottom comprised of smaller sized stones or letting a jig tumble down a large confront with rocky protrusions. Whether bass react to the subtle taps of soft lead on rocks, and even the sharper clicks that tungsten jigheads produce– since tungsten is more difficult than lead– bouncing the jig off rock imparts additional action to the leech. Let the jig fall from a ledge or down the rounded side of a boulder, or gradually obtain it through a crevice in between rocks.

Nevertheless, I never wish to exaggerate it. The entire purpose of a lure is to draw attention, however anglers typically provide their artificials excessive action. Make the leech act as if it is a part of nature, getting on its way without too much unnatural madness.

Fishing tight to the nooks and crannies in rocks where the bass conceal will sometimes lead to the jig unexpected a bass, and this element of surprise typically leads to a response strike. If you fish a jig thoroughly near structure, you will increase the possibility that it will simply take place to drop over the lip of a flat rock, under which a bass is waiting to ambush an unwary meal.

We typically think of drop-offs as sloping, and if a drop-off is more or less gradual however rocky, it’s excellent smallmouth habitat– offered much deeper water neighbors. Spots like this exist on rivers, reservoirs, and lakes alike, and absolutely nothing beats letting a jig descend, slowed by the water resistance on the fluttering synthetic leech. You can even try a flat-head jig to further slow the descent. The Delaware River and Pepacton Tank have long rock walls, so when fishing these areas, try to find breaks– like rugged slate developments– to hold the most fish.

Matt Litton plays a good bass in the Sportsperson’s Swimming pool on the Salmon River.

A river hole with faster water at the head is nearly always good during summer season, particularly if the flow goes through stones that develop eddies and calm water behind them. The little north branch of the Raritan River is no exception to the guideline, and every smallmouth stream has its logic to decipher, with a few of the guidelines shared by all.

Most of the summer action on smaller sized rivers remains in long, slow stretches, not necessarily deep. If you discover the inmost water, you might find the best pocket of bass and chance for the jig. If a stretch deepens to only three or four feet, the variety of bass might amaze you, specifically if combined with an undercut bank.

If I had to name the one best spot to fish for summer smallmouths on little rivers, undercut banks would have my vote. One afternoon, my son Matt and I were playing around with our fishing pole. Matt got curious about an undercut bank with inches of water leading into it and not much more than that leading out. The water that was flowing into darkness below looked about a foot deep. He roamed over, lifted away some bushes, and bass by the dozens started tearing downstream, sprinkling water as they went. I came over and analyzed the spot, discovering that the water went quite far back under, providing lots of cover for the smallmouths.

Lakes like Hopatcong have points and ledges with big drop-offs where you can spend most of the afternoon searching for bass. The exact same is true at Round Valley Reservoir, where carefully fan-casting a range of rocks 15 to 25 feet deep can identify the bass.