Watch for followers of a hooked fish, and have your partner cast quickly to catch these “shadow” bass.
Hooked smallmouth that have been feeding heavily often have following fish. These followers “shadow” the hooked fish closely, looking to grab the hooked fish’s regurgitation. Most likely it will be just one follower of similar size, but sometimes it can be a half-dozen or more. These “shadow smallmouth” can be difficult to spot unless you are looking very closely behind the hooked fish for any telltale shape, movement or flash.
The best way to catch a following fish is for your angling partner to quickly cast a moderately weighted bait a little to the side of the hooked fish. Spotting these fish and getting a fly or lure in front of them quickly is the key, because a shadowing smallie often shies away when they get close to the boat. A falling bait should be within 2 feet of the hooked fish, so if you aren’t on target, immediately pick up the offering and make another fast cast. The person with the hooked fish can help by trying to play the fish away from the boat, so his partner has time for another cast.
If you’re observant and fast, you and your partner can score a double on big fish. Several times while guiding I’ve had two 20-inchers on at the same time after I had the second client cast next to his buddy’s big fish. That’s exciting! For fly fishing, the Holschlag Hare, HHF and HiTail Craw are all good patterns for shadow smallmouth. With conventional tackle, a 3-inch grub on a slow sinking 1/16th oz jig head is hard to beat.
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