Last year we interviewed Jason Hare about fishing cold weather on the St. Lawrence River. This year we ask questions for all seasons and focus on how he fishes tube baits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass. Once again, great stuff from Jason.
How was your 2017 fishing season?
2017 was another great year on the water. As always the real highlights of the year are spending time in the boat with my wife and daughters. We had some fun days fishing, cruising around and just hanging out playing and swimming on the river.
On the fishing side of things the highlight of the year was winning a Shootout Fishing League tournament held in September on the St Lawrence with my brother Craig. It was a 3 fish limit format and we managed to sack up 3 tanks for 15.15 lbs including big fish of the day with 5.14 lb. It always feels great to do well in a tournament but it was extra special to finally win one on the river against some really good sticks.
I only fished two other tournaments last year, both with my wife Kellie and both on the Rideau River. One was a stinker but the other was decent with a 7th place finish. I’ve managed three top ten’s on the Rideau over the past few years so I’d really like to eventually win one there too!
What in your opinion makes tube baits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth such a top option?
A tube does a real good job of imitating many of the critters that make up a smallmouths diet. They can mimic a goby, crayfish or even small perch and other baitfish based on the colors you choose.
Tubes can also be fished different ways to cater to what the fish want to see on a given day. You can drag them painfully slow. You can hop or “yo-yo” them like typical jig fishing or can snap them hard and fast to create an erratic action. Simply put, tubes are a very versatile bait that will put big smallmouth bass in the boat!
In our last interview, you said you aren’t that selective about your brand of tube. But what color tube baits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass do you like?
For smallmouth on the St. Lawrence I prefer natural colors. Greens, browns and greys seem to be the deal. Most the time I’m throwing watermelon or green pumpkin. If those aren’t working or I notice that they’re spitting up bait fish or crawfish, I’ll switch to grey or brown colors to try and “match the hatch”.
What sizes of tubes do you use on the St Lawrence?
I’m almost always throwing 4″ tubes. The only scenario that I’ll switch it up is if the bite is weird and I’m missing a lot of fish. In that case I’ll switch to a shorter tube like 3.5″ or 3″ to see if that corrects the problem. For whatever reason sometimes they’re just biting lighter or nipping at the bait. Going to a smaller profile can really help increase your hook-up ratio.
What jig weights are you using for throwing tube baits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass?
I use the insert style tube jig heads when smallmouth fishing. For deeper water, 15 feet plus, I prefer a 3/8oz head. This seems to be heavy enough to get it on bottom and maintain good contact even in current. You want that tube to move naturally along the bottom while dragging and not get hung on every little nook and cranny down there.
For shallower water I’m normally throwing 1/4oz heads because I prefer that slower fall rate. With clear water like we have on the St. Lawrence, they can really see that bait spiraling down from a far distance. It looks like a dying baitfish as it falls to bottom.
I like to stick to these sizes unless it gets really windy and rough. Then I will up size so that I can still get that bait to bottom and really feel what it’s doing down there. If I know that tube is on bottom and doing what I want it to, then I know I’m going to increase my odds of getting bites.
What combos are you throwing tube baits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass?
I use a 7’2″ Shimano Crucial medium power fast action spinning rod with a Shimano Stadic 2500 FI. I prefer to run 10lb Berkley Nanofil with 8lb Berkley 100% flourocarbon leader. It’s a nice light rod and reel combo with a sensitive tip and lots of backbone for fighting those big smallmouth.
The Nanofil is super thin and that’s a huge deal when fishing current. It allows that line to cut through the current which reduces the bow in your line between you and the tube. This results in a much better hookset. The flouro leader is simply a must for finicky fish in crystal clear water.
Is the tube a bait you throw all year round on the St Lawrence or is it a more seasonal bait for you?
I will use a tube all year for smallies but it really seems to excel for me as summer transitions into fall. I believe the reason for this is mainly because it’s just an easy way to present them with a large profile bait when they’re holding in deep water and fattening up for the winter. Year after year it’s during this transition period when I catch some my biggest smallies of the year. More often than not it’s with a tube.
Do you only use tube baits for St. Lawrence smallmouth bass or do you use it for largemouth as well?
I mainly use tubes for smallies but they can be effective for largies as well. If I were using it for largies then I’d be texas rigging it with a pegged weight and flipping it around heavy grass/cover or punching mats with it.
Last question for you isn’t necessarily directly related to fishing tube baits for St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass, but you had the chance to be in the boat with a couple of great pros. How did that opportunity come about? What did you learn?
The Bassmasters Elite Series has been to coming to Waddington NY on the St. Lawrence almost every season for the last 5 or 6 years. I would always attend the weigh-ins. So when I saw that it was coming back in July 2017 I decided to sign up to be a marshal for the event.
As a marshal, basically you ride with a different pro each day and just watch them fish. You make sure they aren’t breaking any of the tournament rules and you help record their catches by relaying weights and pictures to the team that runs Basstrakk on Bassmaster.com.
Day one I was lucky enough to draw Aaron Martens. The biggest take away from watching Aaron was how dialed into the small details he was. Things like checking and retying his line a zillion times throughout the day, subtle bait color and size changes based on the sun/cloud cover.
Day two I was paired with rookie Robbie Latuso who was on a good largmouth bite and actually cashed a $10,000 check with only largmouth which not many guys would expect to happen on the river. Robbie did his damage punching and flipping docks with a texas rigged craw and covered water quickly focusing on high percentage targets. Both guys were great to hang out with and willing to share tips and info during the day. It was an awesome experience that I would recommend to anyone who is a basshead!
Such great stuff again Jason! Thank you! I look forward to following all of your catches this year on Instagram @jharefishin.