Little adjustments can make big difference for smallies
Mike Norris Outdoors - May 20, 2003

The waters surrounding Sturgeon Bay, Wis., teem with smallmouth bass and at times the fishing is rather easy.

Then again, there are times when one would think the area was devoid of fish. When fishing gets tough, adjustments usually can change an angler's luck.

Such was the case last week when Illiana Walleye Club President Dan Graphentien and I fished the Door County Peninsula waters surrounding Sturgeon Bay, recently listed by Field & Stream editors as "one of America's 25 hottest fishing spots."

With main lake water temperatures in the low 40s and warmer water within both Riley's and Little Sturgeon Bay, thousands of smallmouth bass were staging in two to six feet within these two rocky shallow bays in preparation of their annual spawn.

Locating active bass during the week was a breeze. Swimming a five-inch avocado Kalin's grub on an eighth-ounce jig over shallow rocks attracted numerous hungry bass which we hooked and released.and grub do the trick Swimming grubs presents several advantages to an angler. A jig and grub is retrieved rather quickly and one can cover vast amounts of water rather quickly, and because the lure is suspended and worked horizontally above the rocks, few snags are encountered. The technique works well wherever both largemouth and smallmouth bass roam.

I often use the same technique on Wisconsin's crystal clear Geneva Lake and often recommend it to friends fishing ultra-clear gravel pits. Our pattern held out until Sunday of last week.

The Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament, in its 14th year on Sturgeon Bay waters, was held last Saturday and Sunday. With 232 teams representing 12 states and Canada present, Sturgeon Bay's smallmouth bass took a beating on Saturday.

By Sunday morning the easy fishing on jigs and grubs was non-existent. It was time to change tactics and slow down our presentation. Graphentien and I switched to eighth-ounce jigs inserted in four-inch tube baits which mimic crawfish. At first, we slowly dragged these lures along the bottom rocks without much success.
The tubes would either hang up in the rocks or moss on the rocks would cling to the tube and hook. Graphentien experimented with Texas-rigging his tube bait with just a hook and a small split-shot. The split-shot still gathered in moss.

We both paused from fishing to analyze the situation and agreed we needed to lighten the tube and decrease the rate at which the tube sunk in the shallow water column.

By inserting sixteenth-ounce jigs inside our tube baits and switching to a heavier diameter fishing line to decrease the rate of fall, we found a combination which allowed us to slowly work the lure while avoiding the hang-ups and moss. We were back into catching bass.

"Little adjustments can make a big difference," explained Graphentien, as he hooked one more of a dozen or so chunky smallmouth bass we caught that morning after fine tuning our lure presentation.

Door County smallmouth bass fishing is ready to explode in the next several weeks. Sturgeon Bay, Wis., is approximately a 4 1/2-hour drive from the Fox Valley area and provides excellent smallmouth bass and walleye fishing. Sturgeon Bay Open Tournament champions Mark Evans and Joe Domkoski, both of Illinois, won a $30,000 boat, motor and trailer package last weekend with a 50 pound two-day weight of 12 smallmouth bass, a 4.17 pound average per fish.

For more information on fishing Sturgeon Bay's fabled smallmouth waters, contact the Sturgeon Bay Tourism at (920) 743-6246 or check out

Outdoors with Mike Norris is heard every Thursday from 3-4 p.m. on AM1280 WBIG. Mike Norris can be reached at