Smallmouth Bass and the Clear Waters of Lake St. Clair in Michigan

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Being partial to bass fishing and specifically smallmouth bass, I am constantly trying to visit premier fishing destinations that provide me with the greatest chance to land my favorite species of fish. Recently Bassmaster Magazine named Lake St. Clair in Michigan #1 on its list of the best bass fishing lakes in the country. With the lake only a 6 hour drive from my home in Kentucky, making this trip was a must.


AJ McWhorter, Lake St. Clair, Michigan, Small Mouth Bass
AJ McWhorter, Lake St. Clair, Michigan, Small Mouth Bass

After gathering a group of kayak anglers to join me, we closely watched the weather conditions and anxiously awaited the first weekend of the bass fishing season to come in. It is important to check each states rules and regulations on seasons for specific fish and to make sure you are in compliance with them. We fished the western side of the lake as it is on the American side and easier to access. However, the first morning on the water we had a fairly strong eastern wind and it made it hard to fish the spawning flat that we had targeted previously on a map. Although we planned on dealing with the winds, the water temperatures were cooler than we expected and it was evident after a few hours of fishing that the fish hadn’t moved into this area yet.

I fish out of the Pro Angler 12 and the Lowrance Ready system helped me with the easy installation of my Lowrance depth finder that is essential to my success every time on the water. I am able to get accurate depth and temperature readings and adjust my fishing accordingly. Knowing the depth and water temperature is extremely important to understanding where the fish are and what they are doing.

We had another area that we wanted to try so we loaded up the kayaks and drove a few miles down the lake to re-launch. This area is closer to deeper water and we felt like we could find fish that were staging and feeding before they moved up shallower to spawn. After some unsuccessful exploratory fishing in this area I finally pedaled over a small contour change that I could read on my Lowrance. There was a drop-off from 3.5’ to 7’. Although this is not much of a drop, on a lake this shallow it is a drastic contour change, so I positioned myself using my MirageDrive® to fish this break. I faced my boat into the wind so I could adjust for the wind blowing me off the spot with a simple pedal of the MirageDrive and made my first cast into the area. I was throwing a 4” tube with a 3/8oz tube jig head. I prefer the heavier weight so I can cast farther and maintain contact with the bottom as I drag the bait back to my kayak. I was throwing this rig on a 7’ 1” Medium power spinning rod paired with a 3000 size real. I was using 15# braid as a main line and 10# fluorocarbon as my leader, attached with an albright knot. The braid gives me increased sensitivity, no memory, greater strength, no stretch and the smaller diameter has less resistance and bow in the wind. The fluorocarbon leader is still very sensitive, it’s also heavier which means a faster sink rate and it is much less visible in the clear water of St. Clair.

My first cast on this area was a success! As I drug the tube on the bottom of the lake right off the deep side of the break I felt a very intense thump of my tube and then weight. I set the hook and the battle ensued. Smallmouth bass are known for being one of the more intense fighting fish in freshwater and the smallies on St. Clair are no different. This fish was heavy and was pulling drag as it ferociously attempted to rid the tube from its mouth. Multiple airborne attempts proved to be unsuccessful as I finally got the fish to the boat. This bass was about 19” long and had a full belly. I carefully removed my tube jig from the corner of the fish’s mouth and released it gently back into the water. Excited I made a few pedals of the MirageDrive to get right back into the area where I caught that fish. I mirrored my pattern with a similar cast and worked the bait along the same drop off. This cast yielded identical results – I had figured out a pattern and was now “on the fish!” The four of us fished this same area for the better part of 2 days. We mostly dragged tubes but were able to entice some with a shakey head jig and worm as well. Between all of us we were able to catch close to 200 smallmouth bass in this area. Most of those fish ranged between 17” – 20” and were extremely thick, easily weighing around 4 pounds. However all of us were able to catch fish that exceeded the 20” mark and 3 of us caught our personal best smallie that weekend. I had two fish that were over 21” and exceeded 6 pounds on the scale. What we were able to find in this area were fish that were moving in from the deeper waters. These fish were staged on this break and were feeding, waiting for the shallow water nearby to reach the desired temperature for them to move in and spawn.

Having the Pro Angler 12 on this water provided me with ample storage and excellent stability even in the rough water when the wind or boat traffic got heavy. The advantage of the MirageDrive on this trip was the difference between me having the trip of a lifetime and having a frustrating few days on the water. With the hands-free fishing ability of the MirageDrive I was able to remain in the area where the fish were hanging out without setting my rod down. With winds and waves coming right at me, the MirageDrive and easy to use rudder steering system meant less time fighting the conditions and more time fighting fish.

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