Once in a Lifetime Smallmouth Bass Bite

May 31, 2012 was a day Joey Dougherty and John Peterson of Northland FishingTackle will never forget as long as they live. The stars were lined up creating potentially spectacular smallmouth fishing. Rainy Lakes ice went out in record fashion the first week of April. The ice had been out for fifty two days on their day of fishing. 

Smallmouth usually spawn between June 7-20th depending on moon phases, water temperatures, and frontal conditions. The weather from May 25th to May 30th was not stable by any means. May 28th was sunny then cloudy, May 29th cloudy and cool, May 30th was partly cloudy with a high of 57degrees, May 31 things changed drastically. Sunny skies, flat winds, and high temperatures.

Joe and John fished north shore bays. A few smallmouth were on beds right away in the morning. John had a braid line on with ten-pound test fluorocarbon leader and a 1/8 oz. Northland Tackle Bugaboo jig, in black (best), olive, and white colors. A smallmouth was spotted on a bed with the aid of polarized sunglasses with amber colored lenses.

John and Joe would cast the Bugaboo jigs across the bed and just swim  (slow reeling with the rod tip up) it slowly right through the bed.  John’s first cast was perfectly placed and the big female bass lambasted the jig. More beds were spotted and similar results happened at each spot. There was one huge deviation in the pattern. Most of the times bedding smallmouth bass are males not females. The males come in when the females are ready to drop eggs in the nest.  On May 31st the beds and bedding areas had huge females cruising the areas.  Just after noon female bass moved into the spawning areas in large numbers almost like the bass had a meeting and said today is the day! What is crazy the bass normally do not want to eat or defend a nest during actual spawning. The females wanted to eat as the males had not arrived, and they had belly’s full of eggs to nourish.

Normally bass move in in slower intervals, some areas water warms up quicker than others therefore the more spread out spawning time. 2012 the smallies moved in spawned on May 31st, eggs were hatched and the large amounts of males were gone from the nests by June 6th.

John and Joes day was one to put in the all time memory book. They caught fifty plus huge smallmouth. Every once in awhile all the needed conditions on the lake happen at the exact right time. Normally ice out is from May1- May 5thmaking for twenty-five to thirty days of open water fishing.  We catch lots of big females during this time period. Smallmouth like to hang on points adjacent to the spawn beds, rock walls or drops close t the same areas during cold fronts and sometimes right in the bedding areas on warm sunny days.


Smallmouth react almost immediately to warm and cold fronts, I have seen them swim up and off of spawning shallow areas in the same day, sometimes even twice. Polarized sunglasses are the single best purchase you can make for shallow water fishing. Fit Over polarized glasses work great for those that have prescription glasses.

Bugaboo Jigs are very effective jigs for smallmouth, in all but special circumstances they are a slow swimming, slow reeling jig. Use 1/8 oz. for 1-3 feet of water, ¼ oz. 4-7 feet of water. I have used 1/16 oz jigs but they have to be fished on 4-6 lbs. monofilament line, which makes casting accurately difficult. Braid will work but it is not very abrasion resistant. You get broke off often.

There are a few ways to use a Rainy Lake Houseboats for your smallmouth bass trip. Some guests stay on the Ontario side of the lake (Ontario is the north side of the lake. Many guests stay on the Minnesota side and go across in fishing boats. Travel varies from one to three miles across Rainy Lake to the fishing areas. The houseboat always puts you close to the action. One more advantage is rates are 20% off on both weekly and daily rates on the following houseboats Minnitaki, Voyageur, Tamarac, Saginaw, Kempton Cruiser, and Gold Rush Jacuzzi.

Certain areas on the Minnesota side are excellent also. We will point you in the right direction no matter where you want to go!

Smallmouth on bed to left of submerged rock.

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