Meet Paul Soma: Smallmouth are his specialty.

By day, Paul Soma is chief financial officer for Traverse City schools. By day-off, he’s a crazed Northern bass-gangster. We asked the former Michigan State Bass Champ what he’d tell the fishing clueless about hooking into a specimen that bends the rod tip to the water and ignites the adrenaline:

“Time of year is a big consideration. In May and June, fish along the top of drop-offs and in the shallows. Midday is best. In July and August, fish are in the shallows in early morning and late evening/night, but they go deeper at midday, so fish along the bottoms of drop-offs. In September and October the fish are back in the shallows.

“Look for structure, that’s fisherman-speak for stuff on the lake bottom. For shallows, find a sandy bottom with boulders, weeds and trees fallen in the water, and you’ll find fish there.

“As for lures, you can stick with traditional jerk baits, like Rapalas. I also like the Rattling Rogue. Cast it out and work it back to the boat in an erratic fashion. They’ll grab it. Another is the tube bait – those things with little tentacles. Be sure to get the special hook that goes with them (1/4 oz. is a good size). Drop the tube bait, then crawl it slowly along the bottom to mimic a crawfish. For colors, try sand or dark green. That is a bait smallmouth really relate to. For top-water baits (lures that skitter across the surface as you reel, for use in shallows), I like the Rattlin’ Chug Bug.”

Lure: Rattlin’ Chug Bug

The Chug Bug gets strangely amorous reviews from bass fishermen. Pony up, but be sure to read technique fine-points to maximize the new weaponry.

Sweet Water: Favorite Lakes of the Bassarati

Dave Wilson, owner, Boyne River Bait: Lake Charlevoix and Walloon are premier, but wait a week following tournaments. The South Arm of Charlevoix fishes like a small lake – outstanding – “we float-tube that a lot.” Deer Lake, nearby, is smaller and has a boat rental (Green’s) on the northwest side. Put $10 in the box and row on out. (Boyne River Bait: 231-582-6616)

Doug Fuller, author of Fish of the Elk River Chain of Lakes: Lake Bellaire has some gigantic smallmouth bass – the DNR has netted 8- and 9-pounders. Fish along the drop-off with Rapalas, size 7, 8 or 9.

Paul Soma, bass champ: Pickerel Lake and Crooked Lake (near Petoskey) are world-class smallmouth fisheries. Intermediate Lake, near Central Lake, is fantastic – rent a boat at Crossings Bait Shop (231-544-2407). Around Traverse City, Duck Lake for plenitude; Green Lake for size. South of Frankfort, Upper and Lower Herring Lakes.

This article was published in the July 2007 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.