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Bass action picking up as summer transitions to fall

A few weeks remain for my surgery-induced fishing sabbatical, but the countdown is made easier by the fact I’ll be back in action when the smallmouth bass are transitioning to the fall bite.

My doctors say I’m getting close to the day when I can tow and launch the BassCat, be strong enough to cast for hours and withstand the jarring hooksets on what I consider the premier gamefish of Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

Regardless of your preferred style of fishing, smallmouth bass are out there to eat your lures and provide heart-pounding action. It’s a good thing my own ticker has been restored to full power.

The smallies have been cooperating with local anglers throughout the summer, but once the daylight hours start getting shorter and the water temperature begins to cool, the brown bass kick up their feeding activities.

Many of our region’s waters provide excellent opportunities to hook up.

Lake Erie tops the list of smallmouth bass waters within 90 minutes of Warren and Youngstown. The populations along the north coasts of Ohio and Pennsylvania are healthy this summer, with smallies in the three- to four-pound class relatively common.

The best action over the next month or so will be several miles east and west of the harbors, and soon will be shifting from the deeper waters back to the 15 to 20-foot ledges and rock piles where anglers hook up while casting drop-shot and Ned rigs, as well as tube jigs.

Each of the most productive plastic baits are designed to mimic the round gobies that have become the smallies’ preferred food. Green pumpkin is a solid color to start. Anglers experiment with various metalflake highlights to find the bass’ daily preference.

Anglers who would rather work calmer water are fortunate to have nearby inland reservoirs and rivers harboring solid smallmouth bass populations.

Pymatuning Reservoir is a bass angler’s paradise. Big smallies cruise the lake’s rock piles, foundations and submerged road beds. As we sneak up on Labor Day, the better fish start to show up again in anglers’ catches.

Crankbaits in colors that parrot yellow perch and crawfish are excellent choices for Pymie bronzebacks. Topwater poppers and walking baits also work well. When the fish are holding tight to the structure, anglers can hook up with football head jigs, tubes, drop-shot and Ned rigs.

Shenango is my close-to-home favorite for smallmouths. I like to start the day at sunrise on one of several main lake points where the fish push shad to the surface and against the shore as they finish their night-time feeding. When I catch it right, I can enjoy an hour of fast action on topwater plugs.

Milton, Berlin and West Branch are also good smallmouth bass waters. Anglers work the old roads, as well as foundations, gravel humps and river channel ledges. The dams also are good spots, especially early in the day.

The round-up of best bets for Buckeye and Keystone smallies includes the Ohio River’s New Cumberland Pool off East Liverpool, Wellsville, and Chester and Newell, W.Va., and the upstream Montgomery Pool, up to Beaver Falls and beyond.

The Ohio River is at its productive best when the river level is up and the current is running. Smallies chase the bountiful young-of-the-year shad and crash topwater lures and small crankbaits. Anglers also catch big fish on shaky-head and drop-shot plastic worms.

Sounds tempting! I look forward to the days coming soon when I’m able to rejoin the bass action.

Jack Wollitz’s book, “The Common Angler,” explores the fun stuff that makes fishing a passion for so many people. He appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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