JVD: Choose smallmouth rod actions carefully
— Honing his bass fishing skills on smallmouth in lakes around his Kalamazoo, Mich. home, pro angler Jonathon VanDam offers up some advice on the right rods for key techniques.
The techniques used for northern smallmouth bass fishing aren’t much different than those used for largemouth bass, but the fishing rod requirements are.
The reasons are two-fold. First, smallmouth anglers battling powerful, hard-pulling bass on light line and secondly, you’re usually fishing in clear water. You not only need the proper rod for playing and landing fish, but one that allows us to make long casts and refined presentations.
Here are three spinning rods you’ll find in my boat when the smallies are biting:
Tube baits: The ideal length is between 7-foot-3-inch and 7-foot-6, especially when fishing waters in the Great Lakes region where long casts are necessary. My favorite is the G. Loomis NRX 872S JWR, an extra-fast action jig/worm rod measuring 87 inches and in a 2 ‘medium’ power. The length and soft tip enables me to make extra-long casts in ultra-clear water with 10-pound PowerPro Super 8 Slick braid tipped with a 5-foot fluorocarbon leader. The rod loads perfectly for launching baits, has the backbone needed for a good hook set, and will absorb stress from hard-fighting smallmouth that won’t give up.
Now, if I’m fishing really light tubes (1/8-ounce or less), I’ll use the JWR 902, a 7-6 rod with slightly softer action for hurling lighter baits long distances.
While I rely on the best in the G. Loomis rod line for my tournament fishing, if you’re just looking into G. Loomis quality for the first time, try out the new E6X 852S JWR medium power spinning rod – at 7-foot-1-inch, it’s a great choice to help you with long distance casting and good backbone you’ll need.
Drop shotting: When fishing these rigs, the action and feel are more important than length. Because I’m tall, I prefer 6-foot-10-inch rods like the NRX 822S DSR – but I’ve seen shorter guys fish 6-foot-6-inch models with solid success.
A medium action drop-shot rod must transfer the stress of big fish from the line to the rod but you also need a fast tip to feel light bites. Drop-shot baits employ small, light-wire hooks, so the softer action delivers get a good hook-set without straightening hooks hook or pulling them out of bass’ mouth.
The NRX or E6X 822S DSR paired with 10-pound PowerPro and a 6-pound fluorocarbon leader are perfect for this. You can check out the 6-foot-6 E6X ‘Classic Action’ 782S SJR – it can also be used for a few different techniques.
Finesse jigs: Smaller skirted jigs with weed guards are good baits for fishing around rocks and wood in river systems. For this, I use a 7-foot-1 NRX or GLX 853S JWR, or the value-priced E6X medium heavy power version. The length is best for making pinpoint casts to eddies and structure, while the extra power helps drive the heavier hook home when fishing with 10 pound or heavier line.