Zona KNOWS smallmouths. Some of his best friends are smallmouths — one, strangely, is named Seth Feider. Let that sink in for a sec…. He had a couple smallies in his wedding, and a few live right outside his house. So he’s a bona fide (Feid?) smallie expert, and I had some Qs about fishin’ for ’em in big water so here you go.
1. Is a dropshot really the best rig for smallmouths or are tubes and Neds just as good?
> “I would say conditionally yes — dropshots right now, this time of year, are better. The other really nice thing about a dropshot is it’s very high-percentage. When you hook ’em, you got ’em.
> “It’s really a time of year deal too. When the fish group back up after spawning all the way until fall, I think the dropshot is the most efficient and effective. …1/2-oz dropshot you can cover a massive amount of water effectively, but you can’t do that with a Ned rig. You can in a way with a tube….
> “I don’t use anything under a 3/8 for smallmouths — no reason to. A smallmouth predominantly bites the bait within 4 seconds of it hitting bottom [so with a heavier weight falling faster, you get more bit more times than with a lighter weight].”
2. Do smallmouths ever get sick of a dropshot?
> “Yeah I absolutely think that especially in a condensed, confined area, they totally can get conditioned to it [especially] after a day or 2 or 4 of being bludgeoned. You can go to a more subtle technique — a tube, bitsy tube, Ned Rig…. A lot of times you can also get them unconditioned by line size — going from 8-lb to 6-lb [Z likes Seaguar Tatsu fluoro
], and possibly downscaling the [dropshot] bait you’re using.
> “I think it’s very critical to use a very long leader, like 15-20′. It makes my bait look much more natural. The closer my braid is to my bait, I think my bait gets obnoxious…has too much action.
> “…when you move away and find fresh fish 100 yards or a 1/4-mile away [they are] still dumb to [the dropshot].”
3. Since smallmouth tourneys usually are tight, is there a way to find and catch better-quality fish?
> “Yes. Absolutely. If you’re catching 3-3.5 lbers, no matter how much fun it is, leave. Bigger smallmouth — 4-5 lb smallmouth bass — tend to group up. Whether in packs of a dozen, packs of 4, packs of 50…they come into an area and disintegrate it of bait, like wolves will on fawns or killer whales on seals.
> “…a 4-5 lb smallmouth bass, his #1 job is to be a killing machine with his buddies. When they deplete the area of food, they’ll move…til they find the next forage base to do that to.
> “That’s what all of us up here call ‘sliding.’ They’re not gonna swim 10 miles — they’ll go another 100-200 yards and find the next food source. You can follow them….
> “This time of year…find the spot within the spot, but you better find what they’re putting in their mouth…they’re very choosy and very pelagic. Their structure is what they’re eating.”
4. Does the HydroWave ever play with smallmouths?
> “Absolutely, especially when they’re on some sort of baitfish bite. When they’re on an emerald shiner bite or a perch bite, I’ve seen a HydroWave
work more on St Clair than any other smallmouth lake I’ve ever been on because that’s their predominant forage.
> “What I’ve noticed on St Clair…when you’re on a 50-100 fish school and they’re eating bait, that’s when the HydroWave is at its peak. I feel like I can keep a school going a lot longer than not having it. I’ve caught them with boats around me not catching them…keeps the bite going longer. A lot of times I’ll turn it on after a school dulls.”
5. What’s the greatest piece of smallmouth advice you ever got?
> “Make a big lake, whether an inland lake or a Great Lake, a small lake. Generally the best smallmouth lakes are large lakes. They are very overwhelming.
> “Learn where the biggest flats are on that lake. Smallmouth are a lot like a deer — they’ll relate their entire lives and existence around the biggest flat on those big lakes. …dissect the biggest flat on a lake…they breed there, they eat there, they seek refuge there.
> “…just like a herd of deer, they want a food source and they want safety, and don’t want those 2 things to be far from each other. Generally you find that near the biggest flat on a lake. It sounds very simplistic but it’s not. …find the irregularities of a flat….”
Bonus Q: Are you going to get one of those sick new Ram 1500 TRXs?
> “I called Ram when they had the release last week, and the president of marketing — Michelle — said, ‘Wow it took you 3 hours! I thought you’d call and ask for one in an hour!]’ [Z lols.] I would say I’m a little down on the list, but I have my fingers crossed — I’m really hopeful.”
I bet — I’m a ‘Yota man but wow this looks cool:
Btw, Z and Hack missed this — looks like 2 ‘foots?