Trophy Smallmouth Bass
True trophy smallmouth bass are considered fish over five pounds and usually over 21 inches in length. Fish 20 inches and over are rare, but exist in high enough numbers to make any smallmouth excursion, a possible “personal best” trip.
The world record fish weighed nearly twelve pounds and many of the top ten bronzeback states boast record fish over seven pounds. Many anglers rightfully feel a fish over four pounds, exceeding 18 inches, is an excellent catch. Lakes and reservoirs will almost always beat rivers and streams for oversized smallmouth for several reasons. Lakes are especially good in the spring and early summer when bass are shallow and active, either feeding or spawning.
Top trophy waters production will fluctuate over time as reservoirs develop or smallmouth introductions and protection contribute to average size. Certain waters in North America always produce large fish. Such fisheries contain the optimal balance of habitat, forage, competition and other characteristics. Most of the traditional trophy locations are large bodies of water able to withstand fishing pressure and periodic spawning anomalies.
The Controversial World Record
No one has beaten the world record for smallmouth bass that was set by David Hayes in 1955. It was on that day that while trolling on Dale Hollow Reservoir, Tennessee, he landed an 11 pound, 15 ounce monster. To this day it still stands, blowing away its closest competition by a pound. However, it’s a story that includes two lie detector tests and an angry angler!
Again, as with lakes and reservoirs, the top smallmouth rivers tend to be large and relatively clear. While there are exceptions, some of the best are rivers too warm to support trout but cooler and clearer than many of the middle American “mud” rivers like the middle and lower Mississippi, the Missouri, and the Ohio, to name just a few. Sections of the aforementioned, usually in the upper reaches, can be outstanding. More and more sections of prime river are being protected to harbor trophy smallmouth. This has occurred due to diligent efforts of smallmouth organizations and governmental recognition of the smallmouth as a premier sport fish.
To flyrodders, river fishing provides the best opportunity to consistently score in water seldom exceeding five feet for most of the open water season. Many of these waters are under fished, even amid incessant onslaught of modern day technology. Rivers, especially small rivers and streams, support super populations of small-jaws almost totally ignored by most anglers. It simply requires a bit more effort to plan and execute a float trip. Walking a river in search of fish is something less folks are willing to do in this sedentary age in which we live. Hundreds of rivers and streams across the US and Canada offer not only some of the best fly fishing, but a clear shot at a trophy smallmouth, as well.