Bagley Bass Elite Series pro angler Jeff Gustafson knows a thing or two about catching big brown bass. Hailing from Keewatin, Ontario, his home waters of Lake of the Woods provide world-renowned smallmouth bass fishing, not to mention his experience fishing some of the best bass waters across the U.S. on tour. In fact, this past March, Gustafson went wire-to-wire on the Tennessee River for his first Bassmaster Elite Series victory targeting deep water smallmouth bass when other anglers focused on largemouths.
“There’s just something special about smallmouth bass. They’re extreme fighters and just a bunch of fun to catch. And summer is primetime. I’m happy to share three of my favorite ways to catch smallies during this time of year,” said Gustafson with a warming smile.
Gustafson confides that his first choice for summer smallmouth action is the Bagley #9 Knocker B, which he says is “mandatory equipment.” At 3 ½ inches long and 1/2 ounce in weight, it’s the perfect profile for summer smallies.
Bagley introduced the Knocker B in 2015 and it is now a must-have topwater for all bass anglers. Bagley Bass Elite Series Pro Angler Drew Benton used a Knocker B to win on Lake Travis in Texas in May of 2018. One long cast with this bait will tell you all you need to know about the name. Worked on the surface, the bait emits a loud knock with each twitch—which is a death rattle for fish in the area. It casts a mile and is fun to work for all species of freshwater fish, particularly smallmouth bass. The Knocker B is available in two sizes (9 and 11) and in six freshwater colors.
“It’s great for covering water and making a bunch of noise. The walking bait really attracts big fish. It’s a long-casting bait designed to imitate injured baitfish and call in active predators from a distance. The knocker rattle is incredibly loud, and the lure sits tail down and walks with ease. The presentation is accentuated by a feather-dressed treble hook in the back that adds to the lively action. It’s just a superb topwater for summer smallies,” comments Gustafson.
Gustafson fishes the #9 Bagley Knocker B on a slow and steady retrieve. “You always watch for fish swirling under it or chasing it, which might alter your presentation as far as speeding it up or slowing it down.”
He adds: “The good thing about the Knocker B is you can fish it literally anywhere. It’s extremely noisy, which calls fish in from a good range. I’ve caught suspended, minnow-feeding smallmouths in over 20 feet of water with the Knocker B as well as up shallow in the grass. From June through mid-September, I’ve always got a Knocker B tied on. It’s also better than a prop bait or a popper in that you can use the Knocker B walking bait in windier conditions and they’re still able to generate some bites.”
Bagley introduced the Sunny B in 2015 as well. Made using the exclusive Heat Compression Molding (HCM) manufacturing process, this uniquely shaped crankbait is precision balanced to cast easily and run true, whether retrieved fast or slow, and with significant vibration. It also provides maximum action when twitched – just like a baitfish darting to escape a predator. The Sunny B is available in size 5 at 2 inches long and 3/8 ounce with a diving depth of 6 to 7 feet. There are 8 bass-catching colors to choose from.
“It has a fairly small profile, which is deadly on summer smallies,” said Gustafson. “On any smallmouth waters the Sunny B just excels. In waters with crawfish, I like to mimic those patterns with my color choice. If I was in a situation where I felt like the forage was perch or some kind of shad, Bagley also has colors that mimic those as well. It’s been a really good fish-catcher for me. It’s just perfect for that 5-to-8-foot depth range, and it doesn’t get snagged. I throw it on 12-pound fluorocarbon with a medium-power rod and 7:1 gear ratio baitcasting reel,” said Gustafson.
In terms of experiences with the bait, Gustafson recalls going ten fish for ten casts on one school of smallmouths last summer. “It was just magical, fish after fish, all on the same craw-colored Sunny B,” recalled Gustafson.
This is the fastest-diving crankbait made: big bodied and lead-lipped, with a dive-bomb descent that gets straight to the action. Unleash over a drop-off for suspended fish, or crank along a rocky bottom to draw eager predators to the free lunch.
“The Diving Balsa B is similar to the the Sunny B, but with a larger profile and a bit more aggressive. And it’s really sort of a snag-free crankbait. Another cool thing is the selection of modern colors,” said Gustafson.
“Same deal for set up as the Sunny B. I throw the Diving Balsa B on 12-pound fluorocarbon with a 7-foot medium power crankbait rod and a 7:1 reel. Some anglers will dial back on the gear ratio, but I do it all manually with the 7:1 reel by slowing down or speeding up,” offered Gustafson.
Take Gussy’s recommendations and you’ll be on your way to more brown bass this summer.