Do-Nothing Smallmouths

Watching Doug Teel fish his Teeny Torpedo bordered on painful. At first, at least.

I’ve always worked a Torpedo quickly for stream smallies, skittering it across the surface to prompt reaction strikes. Teel definitely didn’t skitter his plug. In fact, he hardly worked it all! Instead he’d cast it toward the bank, give it one or two jerks to spin its props and then just let it sit there, and sit there, and sit there…!

Guide Doug Teel and a gorgeous Penobscot River smallie

We were fishing Teel’s home waters, Maine’s Penobscot River, and he is a river guide. So I suppose I shouldn’t have second guessed. Still, it took half a day of watching angry smallmouths annihilate his stand-still Torpedo – even as I tinkered with other lures and presentations and caught less fish – to convince me that “When in Rome…”

Do-Nothing Topwater
“Smallmouths can’t stand it when you just leave it alone,” Teel said. “And they attack it as if it were trying to get away.”

A lot of fishy foodstuff, from ‘hoppers to frogs, will land suddenly on river’s surface. Therefore, the bass stayed tuned into anything that plops down on top, and they don’t need a lot of commotion to find a would-be meal. Teel has found that scooting the bait along the top just pulls it out of prime territory.

Adding too much action also can make an offering look less natural. When a beetle finds itself floating, that bug is seriously misguided, and it normally will drift motionless awhile as it tries to figure out what to do next. Choosing a “less is more” philosophy and letting the river do most of the work makes a lure look helpless and therefore like an easy meal.

Teel casts his favorite topwater lure, a Bullfrog-colored Heddon Teeny Torpedo, into every eddy he finds, whether that’s behind a boulder, within a cut in the bank or below a drop. He also loves to drift a Torpedo across currents that race over rock gardens.

He will typically give his rodtip a good twitch or two right after lure lands and maybe one or two more after it has drifted or sat awhile. Mostly, though, he just waits for the fish, and if they don’t react, he reels the lure in quickly and fires it back into zone.

Down After ‘Em
Like many smallmouth junkies, Teel likes nothing better than drawing the bass to the top. Some fish won’t come up, though, so he always keeps a sub-surface offering handy. Specifically, he likes a 5-inch Bumblebee Swirl YUM F2 Dinger on a lightly weighted wacky rig. He weights the rig by adding a 3/16-ounce bullet sinker to the line.

Again, Teel lets the river current and a wacky Dinger’s natural fluttering action do the bulk of the work. He simply casts just upstream of where he expects fish to be (or right to a spot if it is in a hard eddy), lets the lure fall on a semi-slack line, watches for the line to jump and sets the hook when it does.

If Teel’s Dinger finds bottom, and is still in serious smallmouth territory, he may lift the lure and let it fall a few times before he reels it back to make another cast. Most fish hit his Dinger on the initial drop, though, so he rarely opts to add much action.

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