Best Time to fish Grand Traverse Bay for Smallmouth Bass

Grand Traverse Bay Smallmouth Bass Fishing

Grand Traverse Bay

"Fishing

Throughout the year, the changing seasons play a significant role in smallmouth bass fishing.  Seasonal change affects both the behavior of the fish and the strategies employed by anglers. In particular, the optimal month for Grand Traverse Bay smallmouth bass fishing can vary depending on the season. Spring often boasts a period of heightened activity as smallmouth bass feed aggressively coming out of winter. As the waters warm up in late spring to early summer, smallmouth bass move shallower for the spawn. Therefore, anglers may find the months of May and June to be particularly ideal for targeting smallmouth bass.

Summer

During the summer fishing for Grand Traverse Bay smallmouth bass can be an exciting and rewarding experience for anglers of all skill levels. With the warming temps Smallmouth in Grand Traverse Bay will tend to go deeper than they do in the Spring.  However, this doesn’t mean they are too deep for topwater offerings, especially if you’re willing to get up early.  Fishing smallmouth bass on topwater is truely an exciting approach to fishing the Grand Traverse Bay.

When targeting Grand Traverse Bay smallmouth bass in the summer it is important to focus on areas with structure.  Rock structures such as rocky points, ledges, and rock piles, are all areas where these fish like to feed.  Goby and Crayfish patterns are a key food source for smallmouth bass.  The key to success here is to find the preferred bait which usually means you will find the smallmouth bass.  One thing about smallmouth bass that translates well universally is no food = no smallmouth bass.  These guys love to eat and will be found very close to their food source.

Goby

Invasive Gobies provide plenty of food for Smallmouth Bass

Fall Fishing

Fall is a prime season for smallmouth bass fishing in Northern Michigan. The Fall is particularly renowned for its abundance of trophy-sized smallmouth bass. As the temperatures begin to cool, these elusive and aggressive fish become more active.  They can often be found moving into shallow waters in search of food to prepare for the upcoming winter. The crisp autumn air and vibrant colors of the changing leaves provide a picturesque backdrop for anglers seeking the thrill of battling these hard-fighting Grand Traverse Bay smallmouth bass.

Whether casting along rocky shorelines with Umbrella rigs, targeting submerged structure with swimbaits, or working shallow flats with the fly rod, the opportunities for landing a trophy smallmouth are plentiful during the Fall in Northern Michigan. With the combination of ideal weather conditions and the smallmouth’s voracious feeding habits before Winter, Fall smallmouth bass fishing offers anglers an unparalleled experience on the water.

With more anglers focused on King Salmon and Steelhead fishing many of the best inland lakes and Grand Traverse Bay can be barren of other anglers.

Fishing Techniques

Fishing methods for smallmouth bass can range from using gurgle bugs on a fly rod to drop-shotting deep rock piles off a point. While we primarily enjoy using a fly rod with various patterns such as Goby, Crayfish, and Topwater flies, we also recognize the importance of having a spinning rod as a backup.  Windy conditions and the need to approach larger fish in clear water from a distance are conditions that at times are better managed with spin tackle.

In the clear waters of Grand Traverse Bay, smallmouth bass may not always be approachable with a fly rod thus prompting the need for spinning gear. Grand Traverse Bay is known for regularly yielding smallmouth bass weighing in excess of six pounds. These larger bass are old and wise and often require long casts to catch.  Additionally, many anglers appreciate the exhilarating challenge of catching and fighting a smallmouth bass on light spinning gear.

Conclusion

Want to experience the thrill of smallmouth fishing in the pristine waters of Grand Traverse Bay where the breathtaking natural beauty meets unparalleled angling opportunities. Northern Michigan is home to some of the finest smallmouth bass fishing in the country.  This picturesque bay offers the perfect setting for both seasoned anglers and beginners looking to hone their angling skills. Grand Traverse Bay promises a fishing experience like no other!  So come and immerse yourself in the tranquility of Grand Traverse Bay, feel the excitement of each bite, and savor the joy of reeling in a prized smallmouth bass.

Manistee River Steelhead Report

Manistee River Steelhead Report below Tippy Dam

Spring Steelhead 

Manistee River Steelhead Report

Steelhead fishing Below Tippy Dam

The Manistee River fishing report below Tippy Dam for the last part of March.  With the apparent lack of snowpack, water levels started the week pretty low and clear.  However, we received a substantial rain event a week ago Monday night that made the river rise considerably.   Fishing the last week started out pretty good, but as the water bump moved through the system it started to change the Steelhead behavior and made the bite more inconsistent and difficult at times.  

I strongly urge you to get your spring dates now!  Water temps are already over 41 and this run feels like it will peak early this year.  The next 20 day window could be the whole show for this spring. Give us a call 231-631-5701 leave a voicemail or drop us a text message and we will get right back with you.

Manistee River

Currently the Manistee River  Water Levels  are on a drop cycle after some heavy rains and the highest flows we have experienced this spring.  Currently levels are 1660 cfs.  This will more than likely be our peak runoff event for this spring barring any more heavy rains.  Water temps have already exceded 41 degrees and are quickly approaching the 42 degree mark.  

This week we saw mostly adults on the Manistee River and some rather large units that left us humbled.  Our landing ratio suffered a bit this week as the fish were pretty fresh and more robust in appearance.  Until the high water we were still seeing mostly wild fish, especially in the sections below Pine Creek.  I suspect the high water will bring a significant number of our hatchery fish home.  The hatchery fish tend to show up in larger numbers around our spring high flows with warmer water temps.  The Spring Steelhead should be spawning here pretty quick as water temps will likely hit or exceed 42 degrees this week. 

Egg Patterns

Once again Egg patterns this week had the highest success rates.  With the bumping flows you had to find a pattern bright enough and big enough to grab their attention.  I would expect the stones and fry patterns to take off this week as the water recedes.  Usually new fish are pretty receptive to egg patterns and then we see a trend where pressured fish will key in on other food items such as the flies I mentioned. 

10mm and 8mm beads in light orange with Nuke Eggs and smaller clown patterns doing the best for egg imitations.

Salmon Fry

March is here so bugs and salmon fry will be a main focus for the rest of this month.  The river will continue to warm up this week and the stones and salmon fry will continue to become more active.  After the Chinook Salmon run last fall, we should have a banner crop of salmon fry in the slack water this spring.

Manistee River Steelhead Report

 

Booking a Trip

Manistee River below Tippy Dam is one of the best west side steelhead rivers in the state of Michigan.  Mangled Fly guides are starting to book Spring Dates so please give us a call at (231-631-5701) or shoot us an email .  Also not too early to get your Spring Trout trip or Smallmouth Trip on the books.

We have a new sticker too check out in the shop , this sticker is pretty cool so make sure to get yours today.  Also have new this year hand tied Night Leaders for those of you that like the mousing for brown trout.  We also put together a Night Fishing Assortment that saves you a few $$’s and comes with an easy box to store them in.

Jon Ray 

cold weather fishing gear

Cold Weather Fishing Gear

Cold Weather Fishing Gear
Cold Weather Fishing

Fall and Winter Steelhead Gear

One of the more difficult challenges we face in the Midwest during Steelhead season is staying warm. This leads to many questions when preparing for your fishing trip. What do I wear? What cold weather fishing gear do you bring on your trip? With over 30 years of fall/winter steelhead fishing under my belt, I thought I would share how I layer myself before each steelhead trip.

I live by the philosophy that if I get hot I can always take it off. I’ll also share a few bonus tips, tricks, and some new technology along the way. We found some new tech last year that we used with great success and I’ll share that as well.

Base Layer

Once I determine wether the day is going to be wet or dry and what the overall forecast is, I can make my base layer choices. I have two layering systems that I can choose from based on what the weather forecast might be for the day. If I believe it’s going to be wet I prefer my base layer to be a Merino Wool based material. Having tried almost every other type of layering fabric, wool is my go to choice for wet days. No matter how cold and wet I get, wool based materials still keep me warm. The majority of my favorite wool base layers I purchase have been from Patagonia and now Duckworth. Duckworth is a new company for me, but to say I’ve been impressed is an under statement . Make sure to check out the Mens Powder Hoody, you will not be disappointed.

One more quick tip here, no matter if it’s a wet or dry forecast, I will NEVER wear cotton based materials! Even on the unseasonable warm days I still go with a synthetic base layer on dry days. Synthetics are always my go to base layer, wether the forecast is wet or dry. I always start with some sort of wicking layer for my base. Some of my favorite wicking layers range from our hoodie less sun-shirts to any of the Simms fabrics.

To complete the base layer system I choose for the day, I may double up on my base layers depending upon the low and high temperatures for the day. It’s not uncommon for me to start with lightweight layers and then add a mid or expedition weight base layer before adding one of my favorite layers of all, the Puffy Jacket.

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Summer Smallmouth Fishing

Northern Michigan Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass

As we get into the dog days of the summer in Northern Michigan Smallmouth Bass on the big water of Grand Traverse bay I have to be honest got tough.  I knew that my first year on the bay I would have periods of “learning”.  I don’t mind these periods of learning as lessons will come about, and patterns of understanding these fishes behavior are processed.

The last few with smallmouth moving to some of the deepest water has made it hard to get them to play.  Finding fish hasn’t been the problem.  But getting them to interact with my presentation has been the challenge.  While I’ll keep testing my skills over the next 6 weeks until Steelhead Season starts on the Lower Manistee, I did jump back into the river action the last few weeks.  With really low water this summer, smallmouth are definitely grouped up.  Lessons learned last year with low water prepared us for what to have ready in the fly box this year.

Grand Traverse Bay Smallmouth

Grand Traverse Bay Smallmouth Fishing

Northern Michigan smallmouth bass the last few weeks on the bay has been a challenge.  As learning the deep tactics has been a process.  But knew this process was going to take years to learn.  With a high percentage of the fish in deeper water than we have fished the majority of the season, getting them to interact with our presentation has been a struggle.  With water temps at their warmest of the year, learning how to find colder water has been the challenge.

Like I said I have about 6 weeks until the river calls with steelhead trips, so still have some limited time to learn how to catch the late summer smallmouth.  Do have a couple tricks I want to try here in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for updates.

River Smallmouth

River fishing for smallmouth bass

River fishing for smallmouth bass

With the bay given me a few speed bumps we transitioned to some of my old beats, I guess you would say comfort zone.  Bouncing around a few different river systems we found some good smallmouth bass fishing even with the low water.  Food sources that have been working the best pre and post full moon were on two different spectrums.  Pre full moon you couldn’t touch a fish on a baitfish pattern, it was all about the spicy crabs or crayfish patterns.  But since the full moon, mega amounts of baitfish have bloomed and smallmouth are hunting these bait balls.

Continue to play with the Donkey Rig I talk about in this Northern Angler Fly Tying session , I need to get this tutorial done on our YouTube page.  One of my favorite rigs to run late summer.  Have another rig that is in it’s infancy phase, that I truly believe can work on the bay as well.  Just need to dial the flies and leader setups.  But fall baitfish is a key trigger on most of our lakes and rivers.

Booking a Smallmouth Trip

Interested in booking a Smallmouth Bass Trip or going for Lake Trout on light tackle, drop us a message via email, or text/call us directly 231-631-5701. We have open boats available this Summer and Early Fall for targeting Northern Michigan Smallmouth Bass.

Jon Ray

Fly Fishing Insider Guided Podcast

Fly Fishing Insider Guided Podcast

Scientific Anglers

I am honored to be selected to be part of the Fly Fishing Insiders Guided Podcast series, this series features the Scientific Anglers Ambassador’s and Advisors . This being episode 15 in the series, the host of the show Greg Keenan and I decided to discuss Northern Michigan Smallmouth Bass.

Smallmouth Bass

Greg mentioned he had not had the opportunity to interview anyone yet as it relates to smallmouth bass. I did my best to cover the different ways that I like to target smallmouth bass in Northern Michigan. Going over a few different lines and setups. A key tip I disclose is how I use smallmouth bass to help me later in the year show me those off the radar steelhead spots. Make sure to give the podcast a listen and let me know what you think.

Podcast

Jon Ray

Ice Dub Minnow

Ice Dub Minnow

Tying Ice Dub Minnow

Our latest upload to our YouTube Channel is a super simple baitfish pattern that we call the Ice Dub Minnow. A favorite pattern to fish below Tippy Dam, but also works great below Hodenpyle Dam and in the backwaters for smallmouth bass on Tippy Pond. Of course these are only a few of our favorite spots, as it has worked really well for bluegills in the spring when they are shallow and pre-spawn.

If you honestly haven’t tried hunting big pre-spawn bluegills, and you want to test your skills this is a great activity during quarantine. No motor needed for this type of fishing. Get ready to be humbled by the big gills. Great casting practice before the big bugs start hatching on our trout rivers.

Kids Fishing

What also makes the Ice Dub Minnow so great is that you can easily teach it to kids and get them started in fly tying, but also it’s a great pattern to fish with kids, to get them a taste of fly fishing. As I mention in the video this minnow pattern really does fish well by itself, with a tiny split shot. I tend to like Sure Shot, but black bird shot will just work as well. Size No 4 or No 6, are both really small and easy to cast.

Let this fry pattern swing in the current with small twitches of the rod, and it will fish itself. Small minnows can’t swim very fast for very long, so they become easy meals for hungry trout. Fish this pattern in the shallows where small baitfish tend to hide. Good luck and Stay Safe.

Jon Ray

Northern Michigan Guide Service

Big Announcment

I have some very exciting news to share with you all! After 17 plus years of guiding for Chuck and Cherie Hawkins and Hawkins Outfitters, the time has come for me to venture out on my own. Mangled Fly will now be more than just a photo and video blog; it will be home to my full time fly fishing guide services as well.

Everything on the fly fishing side of my business will stay the same. I will continue to guide primarily on the Manistee River and have secured Federal and State access to all launches as well as using my Coast Guard license when needed. My SmithFly Raft, Huron Drift boat, and ‘Tiny Dancer’ Jet Sled will float the big water you all know and love as well as some of the smaller and less well known streams that Northern Michigan has to offer.

Over the next few weeks Mangled Fly will be getting a major facelift with a fresh logo and updated design and you are the first to get a peek at the new look. I will be updating the Mangled Fly website as well as all social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook and YouTube (all searchable under ‘Mangled Fly’). I have loads of content in the works for these platforms including fresh imagery, fly tying tutorials, up to date river reports and seasonal fishing tips.

I could not be living this dream without the continued and loyal support of all of you. I am forever grateful for the hours spent in the boat together rowing, casting, storytelling, catching (and losing) fish, capturing great moments on film and video and enjoying the beauty that I am lucky to call ‘my office.’ I am so looking forward to this next leg of my journey and am happy to have you all along for this ride.

My new email is jray@mangledfly.com. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns regarding this transition.

Tight lines,

JR

Pic of the Day – 2018 Fall Steelhead Run

The 2018 Fall Steelhead run has begun, so far size of the fish is very impressive.  Looking forward to the next 2 months.  Make sure to check out the fishing reports for the Manistee River and the Muskegon River for more pictures and updated information.  Hope to see you out there, have a great fall.

brown trout

Finished Huron Drifter

Here is a link below to the Finished Huron Drifter on their Facebook page,  if you followed along in the building process post. A don’t be worried I’ll be taking many more water pics with this craft in the coming months.  Happy with how she turned out, thank you Jason and Tracy for all your hard work.  Any questions about this boat give Tracy a call, let them know I sent ya, you will be well taken care of.

Jon Ray

Social Media Takeover

Mangled Fly will be taking over the Social Media Feed for Scientific Anglers Instagram feed make sure to check it out and give us a few likes.  Thank you for the opportunity SA!  I’ll embed a few of the images during the week here so make sure to check back and follow as well if your not on Instagram.