The highlight of my Traverse City visit was a Long Lake Michigan fishing trip for smallmouth bass using the sight technique. Many times I have tried to catch a fish that I could see. I don’t think I have ever been successful.
Long Lake Michigan fishing in crystal clear water
Usually clear water leads to fish being hyper aware of your presence causing them to be too spooked to strike. . For this to work, conditions need to be perfect.
First of all, you need a lake like Long Lake that is crystal clear. Secondly, it has to be in the spring when the smallmouth are spawning. The females will lay their eggs on gravel beds and the males hover over them and fiercely protect the spot.
Arrival for Traverse City smallmouth bass fishing
I arrived at Long Lake in Grand Traverse County in the morning to an absolute picture perfect day. It was not even windy when we began fishing Long Lake. Waiting for me at the dock was Captain Ben Wolfe, and I jumped in and the adventure began.
Captain Wolfe explained the method of Traverse City smallmouth bass sight fishing and instructed me on the best way to cast. If you are far away from the bed you can just overhead cast directly over the bed. If you are close you can just nudge the lure slightly over the bed by swinging the lure like a pendulum and then letting go of the bail at the end of the arc, which sends the lure directly over the spot as long as you have it lined up right.
An amazingly successful day with Traverse City Bass Fishing Guide Service
It did not take us long to find a suitable bass to catch. The water was as clear as a patch of ocean in the Caribbean and through our polarized glasses we were able to find a male bass swimming on guard over a gravel bed. It took me a few casts to get it over the spawning bed, but I eventually got the lure in the right place and BAM, FISH ON!
I excitedly reeled in keeping my rod tip up and let the bass tire as he fought while I slowly brought him in. Soon he was by the side of the boat, and Captain Wolfe reached over and grabbed his lip and my first fish was secured. It was a beautiful tiger striped smallmouth bass. I would estimate it weighed between 2-3 pounds.
Catching beautiful smallies Long Lake Michigan fishing
The pattern repeated itself over and over again the rest of the afternoon. The method is practically a sure fire success. The bass strike to protect the eggs; therefore, fisherman do not need to worry about the type of lure. As long as it aggravates, it will do.
Also, if the bass strikes and misses the lure, usually that will scare a fish from hitting the bait again; however, in this case it is likely to catch the fish on the next cast. They will even be more mad the next time your lure comes through his bed. Captain Wolfe likens this method to provoking the drunk guy at the bar.
Long Lake Michigan fishing Sight fishing techniques
Sometimes the male will be caught on the first cast if you direct the lure in the right area. Other times it is a cat and mouse game or a chess match that can take several casts and several misses until success takes place. I think there was only one bass that we gave up on because he was too spooked to strike, so we drifted about ten feet until another bass was spotted.
It is important to get the lure down at the bottom of the lake and drag it directly through the bed. We used a heavy sinker and then floated a little jig behind it. Once you are in the target zone you can keep the lure there and jig.
We took a break from the smallmouth fishing and casted towards shore with a rubber jig with lively tail action. After a couple casts, I hooked onto a largemouth bass. It was about the same size as the smallmouth.
This was one of the best days of fishing I have ever had. I reeled in about seven to eight smallmouths and one largemouth bass.
On the ethics of the fishing method
You might be thinking it a little unethical to catch the male bass protecting the eggs of the female, but we exercised catch and release. The bass was back on his perch in a matter of minutes after de-hooking him and taking a quick picture. If you try this method on Lake Michigan, gobies might steal the eggs in the interim, but there are no aggressive predators for the eggs in the inland lakes, so this is not a problem here.
Above video compliments of the Sport Fish Michigan YouTube channel
Beautiful day on Long Lake
Long Lake is also known for walleyes and northern pike. Usually they are best caught at night, but Captain Wolfe knew of a drop off where they sometimes strike during the day. We trolled but did not have any luck.
Highly recommend Traverse City Bass Fishing Guide Services
Captain Wolfe runs a great outfit that is completely customer focused. No need to bring any equipment. Traverse City Bass Fishing Guide Service takes care of the poles, the lures, the boat, non-alcoholic beverages, and even lent me a pair of polarized glasses. I would highly recommend this service if you are looking for a guide.
My time in Traverse City, Michigan was partly sponsored by the Traverse City Tourism Bureau; however, this face does not impact this post. I received complimentary lodging and tours, but all thoughts, photos, opinions, and love of smallmouth bass fishing are my own.