Lake Erie Fishing Techniques and Patterns
Lake Erie is an amazing world class fishery for several species. The smallmouth bass fishing is arguably the best in the country with 4lb. + fish common place and many 5 & 6lbers. . The fishing begins shortly after ice out , typically late March or early April. The first fish begin to show up on the shipping channel and break lines on the bay and lake structure. Blade baits like the Silver Buddy and a Hopkins jigging spoon are the first lures to draw bites in the cold water usually around 40 to 42 degrees.The blades and spoons are most successful with just a slight lift and fall retrieve. I’m convinced some fish actually pick them up from the bottom. Suspending jerkbaits such as Luckycraft pointer , Megabass 110 and Rapala X-Rap soon come into play . The jerkbait retrieve is also a slow rip-rip pause early on with a long emphasis on the pause ,sometimes as long as 20 to 30 seconds .Small hair jigs and jig worms are also effective in the early pre-spawn time.The bites tend to be very light. As the water warms into the mid to upper forties the retrieves get a little faster and more aggressive with the jerkbait and the blade lifts a little higher and faster . The fish are starting to get up on to the 8 to 10 foot flats and are feeding pretty strong prior to the spawn. At about 45 degrees crankbaits come into play as an effective way to catch smallmouth. Crankbaits and jerkbaits remain effective for prespawn as well as post spawn fish . By late April or early May some fish have started bedding mostly in the deeper 10 to 14 foot range and low to mid 50’s for water temp. By the 3rd week of May many fish on on the spawning flats in very shallow water from 2 to 6 feet . Water temps are usually in the low to mid 60’s . Many plastic baits are effective during the spawn , tubes, ned rigs , jig worms and drop shots. My favorites Venom tubes , Zman TRD neds , Strike King Dream Shot and Yammamoto Shade Shad Shape Worm. By the end of May ,first week of June there are fish in all phases of the spawn . You can find fish in pre- spawn , fish on beds .Some guarding nests , some paired up on beds and also fish that have already spawned and are moving back to deeper structure . Fish are everywhere and generally easy to catch at this time of the year. The senko bite , soft jerkbaits and shallow swimbaits are effective along with an occassional topwater bite. The lake water temp.s are usually a little behind the bays and the bite is usually a little behind also . But by late May and early June the lake is turning on . By the third week of June most of the bay fish are done spawning and off the beds. They move to the deep humps and channel breaks on there way out of the bay . The dropshot ,Ned rigs and tubes are very effective drifted or dropped right on these structures. By the July 4th holiday all the smallmouth are out of the bay and fishing is main lake oriented . The main lake fish are in many phases of the spawn . Key depths can be as shallow as 8 feet or as deep as 30+ feet . Drop shots ,tubes and neds are very effective at this time and throughout the summer. Now is the time to put away the blade baits as all you will catch with it are freshwater drum. Fishing remains strong through July and the beginning of August as the fish move deeper . The smallmouth in August can be caught depths of 50 feet or more with 20 to 35 feet being key depths on certain days. While the numbers tend to be less than spring the quality remains impressive. Once again the dropshot, tubes and Ned rig are the key baits .Deep swimbaits dragged across the bottom can also be effective Good colors for plastics are green pumpkin , dark browns and greens or any color that resembles the Gobie . The month of September can be a very frustrating time as the smallmouth seem to roam and are here today and gone tomorrow many times seeming to have disappeared. I believe they chase deep schools of nomadic bait . Depending on the first cold fronts the fishing begins to get good and the fish more predictable at the beginning of October . The fish are fat and sassy this time of year as they feed up for the impending winter season . The colder it gets the more the blade bait comes into play. Neds, dropshots, tubes continue to work well. A few fish will be caught on crankbaits and jerkbaits. As a bonus some other great game fish show up in the same locales as the bass. You never know when you will catch a giant walleye , steelhead trout or a 15 lb. Laker. It’s a fun time until the weather get’s too bad to fish . That’s when its time to switch gears and head to Florida for giant largemouth.