Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We pretty much know that the habits and habitat of smallies across the country are pretty much the same except for forage species but what about water types? I have 2 lakes that I fish that have smallies plus I'm fortunate to have 2 rivers that are loaded with smallmouth so I consider myself a lucky man. Over the past 10 years of targeting mostly smallmouth I've noticed some radical differences in the fish coming from lakes as compared to their river cousins, I'm wondering if some of these differences are confined to the north or if it happens everywhere. The first, and most obvious difference is length to weight ratio, now I know that I'm never going to get the kind of pigs you guys have unless I make it down that way, which is on my list of things I want to do, but I have caught some good ones for this area. My biggest smallie was just a hair shy of 23" and weighed 5lbs. 4oz. and was taken in a river during late prespawn, my second biggest was on a lake and it measured 20.5" and weighed 5lbs. 1oz. and was caught in late summer, now had I caught that lake fish in the prespawn, I'm almost positive that it would have weighed more than the longer river fish. Last season I caught numerous river smallies in the 19" to 20" range and only 1 broke the 4lb. mark while the only 2 I caught out of the lake were both under 18" but almost as heavy as the bigger river smallies. The next big difference I noticed is the fight itself, now I know some will say you're fighting the current as well as the fish in a river but I've caught smallies in large slack water pools with little or no current and the fight was still as impressive, and while the fight was still strong in the lake fish, it was noticeably less intense as the fish don't break water as often or as spectacular as their river counterparts. Schooling is another thing that seems different, 5 years ago I was on the lake in early September and we foud the fish on a shallow flat adjacent to a main lake point, we boated 14 smallies in roughly 3 hours but the funny thing was the fish were all the same size, nothing bigger than 17" and nothing smaller than 14", now I know that doesn't seem strange but everytime I hit this lake, if the fish are bunched up and we're catching big fish, they're all big but in the river it isn't the same. I caught and released several good fish from a shallow pea gravel flat last year in the river but in between the good ones were dinks of 12" and less, now this has happened frequently, fish of different sizes being bunched up while the lake fish seem to school according to size. Aggressiveness is the other big difference, when the bite is on in the river it's awesome to say the least, if your cast is within 10' of a fish you will only get one maybe two cranks on your lure before it gets crushed, but on the lake it seems the fish follow or hesitate an extra second or 2 befor they commit an smash your bait. Yes, the lake fish hit with the same gusto but it's not as quick, but the lake smallies seem more willing to move a greater distance off the cover to grab your lure than the river fish. I've caught lake and river smallies that followed my lures all the way to the boat before striking but I've watched far more river fish give chase and turn away 5' later than I have lake smallies. Is it just coincidence that the fish are like this while I'm on the water or is there that much difference in their behavior from lakes to rivers?