The spybait has started to gain some momentum as a fantastic smallmouth bass technique. Earlier this year Mike Mueller had a very successful FLW tournament and a top 5 finish by using the spybait. So we get into the details about Mike’s strategies for Lake Champlain spybait fishing.
How was your 2017 fishing season?
The season was a success in that my goal every year is to make the year-end FLW Costa Series Championship. I was able to do that this year out of the Northern Division. I qualified for the 4th time in 3 years, including a double-qualifying season in 2016 out of the Southeast and Northern divisions. A big highlight was a strong finish at the opening event at Lake Champlain.
What first got you started fishing a spybait on Lake Champlain?
I’ve been fishing and trying to perfect the spybait technique for about 4 years now. It is not a lure you can just pick up and throw, as there are many subtleties in fishing it. I’m pretty comfortable with it now and usually have one tied on no matter where I go.
The first morning of practice at Champlain I caught three 3 pound smallmouth in the first 30 minutes. So I knew it would be a player during the week.
What makes the spybait an effective lure particularly on Lake Champlain?
It excels as a technique that works well in situations where the fish are highly pressured. That was what we were facing during that event. There had been several tournaments leading up to the kickoff of the Northern Costa event, and the fish were mixed between pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn patterns.
What brands are you using for Lake Champlain spybait fishing?
I only use the original Duo Realis Spinbaits. They have spent years in R&D perfecting these baits. Although other newcomers may catch fish, I trust Duo Realis over the quickly replicated copies. I feel that I have their “feel” dialed in. To put it simply, I like how I catch fish and put money in the bank with them!
What sizes do you like for Lake Champlain spybait fishing?
I throw the 80 and the 80 GFX, if I’m fishing a bit deeper, about 95% of the time. I will throw the 90 on a slightly heavier rod if I need more casting distance, like on day 2 of the event when it was heavy winds.
How much does color make a difference for Lake Champlain spybait fishing?
Like most anglers, I try to match the forage. In clear Northern smallmouth lakes I like the “Gold Perch” pattern, but I also like throwing purple hues like “Purple Rein” for smallmouth.
What rod/reel/line setup are you throwing the spybait on?
I have a very specific combination that I’ve settled on after years of learning this technique. I throw it on a Razr Rods 6′-6″ Med-Lite spinning reel, model 007ARZ, paired with a Team Lews Pro Spin TLP2000 spinning reel.
For my line I only use 6#-8# Seaguar InvisX fluorocarbon – as a leader with 20# Seaguar Kanzen braid as the main line. I run about a 20 yard fluoro leader, when most anglers only use a short leader. The reason for this is that I feel that it helps keep it “tracing” at the distance I want it to be at.
The Medium-Lite rod is critical for 2 reasons. First, you just want to load up on them and not set the hook.The fish usually engulf the bait from behind and the light nature of the rod keeps you from pulling it away from them. Second is the play it gives you by the boat. With super light line, the action of the Razr Rod with the smooth drag of the Lews Pro Spin are a must.
Is the spinbait a bait that can work all year round?
Yes, this can be a year-round bait. I’ve caught them from early spring to late fall over the years. For me, there is no one time of year that it produces better than others.
What type of structure/depth are you looking for when you throw the spybait for smallmouth bass on Champlain?
My success was two-fold at Champlain. It was a strong bed-fishing event the week we were there, and even though I caught many of my fish off beds, I alternated the Spinbaits with a Zara Spook as search baits when looking for beds. I caught several key fish on days 1 and 3 doing this.
The most important fish, however, came at the end of day 2. I was needing a key upgrade to my limit, and we came upon a main-lake shallow shoal. My boater found this place in practice, but the early day-2 winds made it unfishable. By the end of the day the winds had died down enough to make a few casts before we headed in.
I had my Spinbait 90 tied on. Within a few casts, I tied into a decent smallmouth that allowed me to make about a 2 pound cull. That is the fish that allowed me to finish day 2 in 5th place out of close to 200 anglers, and make the day 3 championship cut. We ended up having a solid day 3 and finished the event in 4th place.
When thinking about Lake Champlain spybait fishing, do you view the bait as only for smallmouth or can it be effective on largemouth as well?
Although it is highly effective on smallmouth, I’ve caught plenty of largemouth and spotted bass with them. For Largemouth and Spots, I use it in areas where I’d fish a jerkbait, alternating between the presentations.
It is also a killer bait for schooling bass too. Most know that the better fish hang out deeper under the schoolers, as this is a perfect way to target them. Without giving away all my secrets, don’t count these baits out for spawning/bedding fish either!
You have a lot of sponsors. Which of your sponsors products are critical to your success with the spinbait?
My Lews reels and Razr Rods are critical, as I’ve already discussed. Also, even though I’m not affiliated or sponsored by Duo Realis, they have helped me out greatly over the years.
My other supporters include: 5×3 Fishing apparel, G2Gemini Jerseys, Bluewater LED, Eco Pro Tungsten, Rudy Project Optics and XX2i eyewear, Snack Daddy soft plastics, Bass Craft Crankbaits, Bionic Custom Spinnerbaits, Bite Club Soap skin care products, AnglerHub software, Highwater Creations Tackle Tags, Elite Rod Sleeves, Jewel Bait Company jigs, and The Pond Pro.
I love talking to Mike. The guy knows fishing. And he certainly knows Lake Champlain spybait fishing. I follow all of Mike’s success on Instagram @mikemuellerbass.
Check out our first interview with Mike: Talking Fishing and Sponsorships with Mike Mueller