The Smallmouth Brook Trout Bass

As far as I can tell, the rivers and streams where trout live flow through all of the states in the U.S. except for Illinois.

Which is where I live.

There are plenty of fish here in our rivers and streams and I’ve selected to focus primarily on the smallmouth bass. This fish lives in waters that easily rival anything I see in photographs of where trout live, with the exception of any state with snow capped mountains looming in the background of a photo. Other than that, the many rivers and especially small creeks that I like to fish can easily have you believe that you are anywhere but the Prairie State.

That nickname alone conjures up images of slow, sluggish, brackish waters that barely flow through endless fields, generally made up of corn and soybean crops. And yet we have plenty of small rivers and creeks that are far from that description. The Apple River comes to mind with its massive bluffs that border one side of the river.

The Mazon River also comes to mind. This river cuts through ancient stone left behind after one of the ice ages. When you tire of fishing, you can always comb its river bed for fossils.

Those two rivers alone will have you wondering if you really are in Illinois and wondering if in fact there might be trout about. They easily fit the image of the places where trout live, but you’ll have to settle for smallmouth bass.

The one disturbing factor, to me anyway, is now that I’m fishing for smallies, apparently I have to be fishing for bronze bombers, hawgs, pigs or whatever pet name has been attributed to this fish.

It doesn’t matter that the one pictured above was caught far up a spring fed creek in mid March. A creek that is always cool in the summer and never freezes over completely during the winter months. The smallies have to be monsters. Reporting on anything shy of that is a call to be blasted by other bass anglers. It also doesn’t matter that I’ve caught my fair share of these pig smallies.

I apparently fail on two accounts. First, I no longer measure my fish. I give a best guess rounded to the nearest inch of what I think might be the length of the fish. Second, I also never weigh fish.

This opens me up immediately to the “my penis is greater than yours in girth and length” crowd who come crawling out of the woodwork to lambast my meager estimates of the fish I catch. Apparently I’m supposed to be measuring every fish that might look like a hawg and this measurement has to be within 1/32 of an inch. My way of rounding things off to the nearest inch is met with ridicule. Apparently I’m also supposed to walk around with a certified scale to weigh the fish so that I come up with a number like 3.8263 pounds. I’ve been cajoled into making a best guess of a weight…c’mon, what do you think it was? Two pounds? Three pounds? Four pounds? It looks like two and three quarter pounds to me from your photo.


Usually, soon after putting up a fishing report where I say I caught a smallie that I thought might have been pushing the 19 inch mark, reports will appear where bronze bombers were caught and measured at 19 and 3/8 inches.

I didn’t know that I had unknowingly entered some kind of strange fishing pissing match. I don’t enter competitions of any kind ever.

Since I have a very minimalistic approach to fishing with a relatively light rod and small lures, that’s generally the next aspect of my fishing that’s attacked. In order to effectively fish for these river monsters, so I’ve been told, I should be using a rod that’s just shy of a broom stick and ripping baits through the water that weigh in at a half ounce or more. My technique of letting small baits hang in the water column in likely fish holding spots isn’t supposed to work very well for these denizens of the deep.

My explanations that I don’t care about fish size and weight fall on deaf ears. It doesn’t matter how much I explain that I’m not out there fishing for those reasons, the big fish are a nice surprise but not the goal. I go to fish and I don’t care what winds up on the end of my line and in my hand.

I tend to read a lot about trout fishing. It seems like that’s what I have to do in order to get away from the more mechanized way bass anglers tend to write with their obsessions over weights and measures. I immerse myself in the words of trout anglers that conjure up pictures in my head of their surroundings. Trout anglers that wander up secluded tree lined narrow streams and brooks. Still others that hike up mountain paths to hidden lakes at what seem like impossible heights, and they take pictures of the little fish they catch and make no apologies for their images.

Illinois Wisconsin Fishing

Fly Fish SC

Backwater Angler

Small Stream Reflections

Mysteries Internal

And yet I go out on a recent January day and catch a few fish. The smallest, daintiest of smallmouth bass that you can possibly catch on a hook.

Their colors rival that of any trout, in my eyes, and they have such exquisite details to match.

And yet I have to be immediately told that if I were doing this or doing that I would have caught those monster bronze bombers and my posts and pictures are such a waste since nobody but you will actually admit to targeting dinks when real fishermen want to hear about and catch blah, blah, blah.

So I’ve decided to solve my own little problem by taking matters into my own hands, to perform a little science experiment. I’m going to breed a whole new species of fish which I’ll be calling the Smallmouth Brook Trout Bass. If everything goes as planned, it should wind up looking something like this:

The majority of the coloration will come from a brook trout. The shape will generally be that of a smallmouth bass. Both of these fish have the capabilities of becoming a decent sized fish. They’ll also, hopefully, be able to survive in their individual normal habitats, from cool mountain streams to the warmer rivers and creeks.

Hopefully, someday I’ll be able to go out with my light gear and not give another thought to fish size and weight. Someday I’ll be able to bring a fish to hand and admire not only it’s fighting ability, but the stunning beauty of its coloration…

16 thoughts on “The Smallmouth Brook Trout Bass

  1. Mike

    There’s so much to comment on in this post.

    I, too, never measure a fish. The span from the tip of my thumb to the tip of my little finger, a guesstimated eight inches, is tool enough. Weight? I haven’t a clue. Three pounds? Okay. Four? If you say so. Is that big?

    And no apologies for smallmouths required. Pound for pound (however many pounds they might be… see above) they are the fightin’est freshwater fish I know.

    And smallmouth water has the charm of trout water and are often one and the same. I’ve been known to hang a fighter, proclaim it must be a trout of eighteen inches or more, only to, with some effort, bring home a ten inch smallie. (Again, see above, pound for pound).

    So while most of my fishing is for their largemouth cousins (with fly gear, not crank/jerk/stink/rattle/whatever baits) and the ever-anointed trout, smallmouths are pretty damn hard to beat.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Ken G Post author

    Hope you and Mary are doing well Mike.
    It’s funny when I read about Tenkara. I’ve been doing almost the exact same thing with spinning gear and smallies for years.
    I didn’t know it was such a zen experience, just an efficient way to catch fish.
    In some of the creeks around me, I can tie into largemouth that live there. Slim versions of their lake cousins.

    What I need to do is quit visiting fishing forums. Since my reputation doesn’t seem to matter anymore, no real reason to be on them anymore.

  3. bob

    I guess this is why I knda’ gave up writing fly stuff, and fishing stuff, and giving seminars; I don’t think I was being effective in extolling the joy of catching a fish, any size, casting as far as any 8 year old can (or needs to).

    If I’ve learned one thing from my work, and I’ve learned many things, is that adults simply cannot be led to “joy”, much less drink from the river of it. So, I’ll wander the lakefront, expensive G.Loomis in hand (Daiwa Fuego attached) sight fishing (mainly flipping and pitching) for freshwater drum. Sometimes, if the smallies aren’t cooperating, and the drum aren’t around, I go for rock bass and gobies.

    the pretty legs, butts and breasts walking past certainly are equally as inspiring
    as many of the snow-capped mountains I’ve seen over my life. I mean, I generally go OMG once or twice at a mountain, but I find myself muttering that many times over fishing Monroe Harbor along Buckingham Fountain.

    But, been there, done that on numbers, sizes, weights. It is valid, but the older I get the OMG I mutter over some shapely assed legs, a shapely assed ass, and some bouncy, perky (regardless of age) breasts, beats the one I’ll give that 20 inch bass.

    I think I lost my point. Oh, no, I didn’t. Ass over bass.

    1. Ken G Post author

      “I think I lost my point.”

      No, not really.

      Helping you with the Kid Fishin’ is what drove the point home for me. The pure joy of catching potato chip gills from little ponds. You can’t beat it.

      Was also nice to be supervising the other fishing instructors…, you go over there…..I’ll help this mom with her sweet little kid…..


  4. Dan

    You didn’t know the fish know what kind of rod you are using? You dress more like a trout man than a Nascar driver anyway, keep doing what your doing.

  5. Quill Gordon

    I’d “settle” for smallies. Big ones, little ones, I don’t care; they are fun, especially on a fly rod. I like the mad scientist aspect of smallmouth brook trout bass, though. At least you’re staying busy?

    Someone asked me one evening last summer how many fish I caught and seemed upset when I couldn’t tell him. I just fished for a couple of hours, zoned out and didn’t count. Another time, I was all excited about getting into a couple of pods of native brookies and the response I got was along the lines of “we really ought to do something about all those little fish”. Screw ’em.

    {My mom says she is terrible at estimating lengths because my dad always told her that (holding her index finger and thumb slightly apart) was six inches …}

    1. Ken G Post author

      “At least you’re staying busy?”

      Severe boredom between job applications. Next, piranha carp.

      I’m glad to see all the little ones back. They disappeared the fall of 2008 after a pretty good flood. The ones I’m catching are the year class from the following spring. Barring more floods, the next few years could be pretty darn good.

      I always say I’m going to use my fly rod more, but never do. The one shot above where you actually get to see my face, that was caught on a fly rod. I’ve got a little 3 weight for the creeks. Note to self, use fly rod more.

      That last sentence we’ll leave alone, or that may become a post soon…..

  6. walt franklin

    Ken, Good post with fine smallie photos. I’ll be looking for one of those b.t. bass fish when the weather warms. Much more interesting than catching “hawgs” or reading “pig-chaser” blogs!

  7. hambone870

    I don’t measure my fish either. I may weigh a few a year on my boga grips but that is mostly a result of them being great for landing carp and pike. I rate my fish with words like hog and slob or beautiful. Never got to caught up in the measuring contest sometimes associated with fishing. Thanks for the plug and love this post.

    1. Ken G Post author

      I Googled January Brook Trout Fishing, clicked on Images and a picture from your site was in there. Now before you put up a post, you need to do some editing and run spell check. I may be able to talk someone into using you as a writer for that area. We’ll see what happens.

    1. Ken G Post author

      I think it’s all the kids out there that are feeling their oats. Go pick on someone else. Geeez.

      Read my article in the February issue of Heartland Outdoors. I have a dream list I’m trying to figure out how to accomplish. It would get me to still more of the best water and scenery in the state.

      Thanks BA.


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