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Man on a boat holding a  bass fish

Go Deep for Summer Smallmouth Bass
in Cayuga County

By George Fiorille

Bass are the most popular fresh water game fish in North America. Of both bass species, the largemouth and smallmouth, most bass anglers’ favorite fish is the “smallie.”  Ounce for ounce, many consider the smallmouth to be the “fightiness fish in fresh water. 

Man on a boat holding a fish

Cayuga County has several great smallmouth bass waters. They include Lake Ontario, Cayuga Lake, Owasco Lake, Skaneateles Lake, and Cross Lake. Some smallmouth bass fishing waters in Cayuga County have exploded thanks to the arrival of the goby bait fish. Gobies have arrived the past decade coming through the Great Lakes system. Lakes such as Ontario and Cayuga that are connected to the Barge Canal System, are loaded with the bait fish. Fish that used to weigh 3-4-pounds, are now pushing trophy size to 6-7-pounds or more. A clear example is the 8-pound, 6-ounce new NY State record caught out of Cayuga Lake two years ago. 

Spring time fishing for smallies is usually very good in shallow water around shoals and in creeks. By the time summer rolls around, most smallmouth bass leave the heating up shallows and head for deeper, cooler waters. Fishing deep can be more difficult than shallow casting, but can be very good with a few proven tactics. 

One good technique is to fish live bait. Try drifting with live bait rigs tipped with either a minnow, a craw fish, or a night crawler. Start at depths of 15-20-feet and work deeper until you find the magic depth. Walleye anglers score well power fishing with live bait rigs drifted with a slip bobber. This technique can work on smallies as well. 

Man on a boat holding a fish

 If you would rather fish with artificials, lures can be very good in deeper water. Work weed and shoal edges that drop off into deeper water early or late in the day.  Try fishing with top water plugs such as poppers and spinner tails. Stick baits work well in these areas as well.

The areas described above may work well early or late but may die soon after or before the periods mentioned. The fish may go out over deep water to suspend or go into greater depths. As you work out towards deeper water, try using crankbaits in shad, crawfish ,or bluegill patterns that will reach a depth of 12-15 feet. If you have to work out into the 20-30′ depths or more, heavier lures such as drop shots, Ned rigs, hair jigs, and grubs or tubes can be the way to go.  

If you find it difficult to fish deep, you can always fish at night. It’s harder to maneuver around but you will usually have the water to yourself and the fish will be less spooky. Try using florescent lines that will glow under a black light that helps knot tying and seeing where you are casting. Try casting black spinner baits, top waters, and crank baits. If you are fishing an area that you feel has fish but are not reacting to your power fishing technique, try slowing down, and fishing the drop baits mentioned above. 

Summer smallmouth bass fishing in Cayuga County can be fun and rewarding. Fish early and late, don’t be afraid to venture out in deeper water ,and be versatile in your presentations. Hey, you never know.  You just may end up with a new NY State record fish.