ALPENA, MI – As Tennessee Pro Wesley Strader prepares his tackle for his Elimination Round at the 2018 Summit Cup event in Alpena, Michigan, his mind is (rightfully) on smallmouth: of the 161 fish caught in the two Elimination Rounds already contested, 154 have been smallies. But Strader’s gear and approach for the week here in Northern Michigan are much different than they would be if the 22-year FLW Tour veteran was fishing a southern smallmouth impoundment like Pickwick Lake in Alabama or Dale Hollow Reservoir in Tennessee.
“These northern smallies are totally different then they are in the South,” Strader says. “Smallmouth in places like the Tennessee River and Wilson Reservoir don’t eat all the time like they do here in the Great Lakes. Those Southern fish don’t encounter ice. Up here, the fish have to feed more because they know ice is coming. They’re just a different breed here.”
Which also requires a different series of baits. Strader’s arsenal for the week includes a standard goby-colored drop-shot setup (a 4-inch Zoom Z-Drop in green pumpkin and smoke purple), but it also includes more flashy, moving baits than he’d fish in the South.
“Smallmouth are visual feeders, but especially in these northern lakes,” Strader says. “It’s not a vibration-based bite, but more of a sight-oriented thing. I tend to throw more lures that appeal to that, especially if it’s sunny: a Zorro Bango Blade spinnerbait or a jerkbait and such – flashy stuff that they can see good. I’ll favor more drop-shot and tubes when it’s cloudy because smallmouth don’t seem to roam as much in those conditions.”