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General Facts
Smallmouth, like their largemouth cousin, can produce heart pounding strikes and aerial acrobatics. The smallmouth bass is arguably one of the nation's most beloved species primarily due to the way they explode on a topwater lure. Where present in lakes, smallmouth bass can be found relating to weedlines, current breaks, points and rocky humps.

Smallmouth bass are widely distributed in the northern part of New Jersey in lakes such as Round Valley Reservoir, Oak Ridge Reservoir, Monksville Reservoir, Swartswood Lake, Merrill Creek Reservoir, the Upper Delaware River and the South Branch Raritan River. In the central region smallmouth bass can be found in Manasquan Reservoir. Smallmouth bass fishing is limited in South Jersey to Union Lake (pdf, 430kb).

This species can be targeted around aquatic vegetation, rocky humps, points, sandy flats, and ledges. In rivers smallmouth can be found around aquatic vegetation and near current breaks created by rocks, fallen trees, or bridge abutments. This species also has a greater tendency than the largemouth to suspend in open water areas of lakes feeding on the predominant fish, mainly alewife where present.

There really is no bad time to fish for smallmouth bass, however winter is probably the most difficult time to catch this species. The best time is spring through fall, when smallmouth are most active. Early morning and low light conditions are typically considered the most favorable, however bright sunny days can also produce outstanding smallmouth catches. Fall is probably the best time of the year when smallmouth begin to school up and feed heavily before winter. Referred to as "wolf packs", these monster schools of smallmouth will devour anything in their path.

Want to know how to catch this fish? Spring and early summer smallmouth can be found roaming the shallows. Lures such as crawfish imitators including tubes and jigs are sure bets. Another lure to use is soft plastic stickbait, made by many manufacturers, but the most famous is the Senko. Work this lure around shallow vegetation, rocks, and course gravel. Fast moving baits such as spinnerbaits, topwater lures, crankbaits and lipless crankbaits always catch the attention of smallmouth from spring through fall.

Focus on Fishing: Smallmouth Bass (pdf, 93kb)

Smallmouth Bass Stocking Distribution Map

Smallmouth Bass Stocking Summary, 2018 (pdf, 55kb)
Smallmouth Bass Stocking Summary, 2015 (pdf, 24kb)
Smallmouth Bass Stocking Summary, 2014 (pdf, 21kb)
Smallmouth Bass Stocking Summary, 2013 (pdf, 12kb)
Smallmouth Bass Stocking Summary, 2012 (pdf, 11kb)
Smallmouth Bass Stocking Summary, 2011 (pdf, 11kb)
Smallmouth Bass Stocking Summary, 2010 (pdf, 10kb)
Smallmouth Bass Stocking Summary, 2009 (pdf, 8kb)

Prime Time for Smallies

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: January 17, 2019