Smallmouth Bass Food Non-Pareil
By Ken Penrod

All colors-with names: You really have to see these up close and personal. Each one of these colors has been tested and approved by Ken.

I write this article with about 10 days left to prepare for my guide season. That may not seem like such an ordeal to some of you but my “beginning” is a little different than most guides. I will literally move to Duncannon, Pennsylvania, for about six weeks and I need to pack for all kinds of weather—all kinds of fishing conditions—all kinds of boat and motor issues. There will be days when my cold weather gear is not quite enough and there will be days when a tee-shirt is sufficient. My Cabela’s Guide Wear is hard to beat but I need long underwear, fleece shirts and vests, Grabber hand warmers and really good head and face gear. I take a case of mercury outboard motor oil, a spare boot for my jet and a spare steering cable. I’ll need tools. Since I’ll live in a motel, I’ll want some food and essentials for the room, a shotgun since turkey season comes I n while I’m there and my PC complete with BlackBerry tethering capability so I can create and send my weekly fishing reports and photos. PA trout comes in while I’m there and if we get a cancellation or a dangerous day—I’ll need my fly rod and hip boots.

For my boat, a spare battery charger, push pole, anchor, tree limb clippers and power chords to hook-up my onboard, three bank charger at Riverfront Campground. A bag of boat towels, shop-vac and spray-on cleaner are must-have.

The all-new Pen-Rod by Gator Rods feature an exposed blank near the butt and the rest of the rod was the result of Ken and Dumas combining their experience.

I’ll take about a dozen Gator fishing rods of all lengths and actions—some baitcasting but most spinning. I will probably use two bulk spools of 8# monofilament line and I have need for some braid also. Because we have to plan for fish behavior in water temperatures ranging from 36 to 60 degrees, our lure selection could be huge—but it isn’t.  Yes, we will fish in “no” current during the cooler water days—and we will fish nothing but current near the top-end of our expected range. We will offer our lures in presentations from dead-slow to damn-fast. The bass tell us what they want—and we just deliver.

One of my least concerns however will be lure selection.  Ninety percent of every smallmouth bass fishing day will find my clients and I casting tubes on spinning rods and while tubes have been around for a long time—by many manufacturers, we have improved upon them and I want to pass along our results.

Campground Specials in the KP Series is an exclusive distributorship of Johnny Cunningham, owner/operator of Rent-A-Boat and Riverside Campground in Duncannon, PA. John will send orders by mail and accept credit card orders for orders over $40.00. You can reach Johnny at 717-877-2704.

 We have designed our own colors specifically for Susquehanna, Juniata, Potomac (both upper and tidal) and eastern shore tidal waters. We did so by studying the crawfish colors of those waters—and the seasonal changes in crawfish color. We examined how smallmouth react to crawfish size and learned early on that while the four-inch size was quite good, the 3.5 (small jaws) and 2.75 (teaser) were better, by far, most of the time. If you have been reading my fishing reports or sitting-in on my numerous seminars you know that I am a big disciple of Mizmo. The KP Series of tubes is made for John by Mizmo and another friend of John’s. In addition to the KP Series of tube colors, Johnny also has a patent on his own line of tube jig-heads called RAB Jigs. They come in 1/0 for the Small Jaws and Teasers and the 3/0 for the four-inch plastics. By the way, I also use these for jigging wacky-rigged Case Plastics and grubs. They are available in 1/16th, 1/8th and i/4 ounce. I like the ¼ size for faster current and on windy days. I prefer 1/8th whenever practical.

I’ve been a river smallmouth bass all of my life and a professional guide since 1982 and I can look you in the eye and tell you without reservation that the salt impregnated plastic tube is the best offering I have ever used for smallmouth bass—ever, and I can tell you that the Campground Special, KP Series is the best tubes ever for regional rivers such as the Susquehanna Juniata and Potomac—by far.

Gator Rods and I have pulled resources and knowledge to come up with a series of fishing rods for the jobs we face in our region. Gator calls this line the Pen-Rod Series. The medium action, 6-foot, 3-inch size is the perfect length and action for tube and Stick presentations for our river bass. I love monofilament, especially Excel by Bass Pro Shops and Sufix, in eight-pound test and I want green line. My reel must be a fast-retrieve model in the 2500 class with no less than 6/1 gear ratio.

The RAB jighead with wire guard is preferred but it may take you some time to get a handle on rigging it. The ire goes in the hollow butt end first and must come back out about ¼ inch before the dead-end at the head.

I’ve said it a million times but “there is no magic lure, just magic places,” so you can’t catch fish where there are none. I’ve also said “find the food and you have found the fish.” The KP Series of tubes will more than do its part. If you find a better plastic—call me.

Deliver your tube to your target and may I suggest that you overcast it when possible. Close the bail with your hand, tug on the line to get it started on the spool tightly and remove all slack from the surface. Move the lure with you rod tip but only 4-6 inches at a time. The “pause” between moves is every bit as important and the move. Keep your line “taunt” but not tight. When you feel the bass take your lure, drop the tip of the rod, wind up slack line until you actually feel her swimming—and set the hook as if that fish owed you money.

This Susquehanna smallmouth bass is just “average” for this river. We caught 25 bass that were 20-inches or longer as necessary to be in the “Ken Penrod 20-Inch Club.

One other little trick before I go back to packing. I’m sure you are familiar with drop-shot techniques where a lead weight is on the bottom with a small hook and small plastic is further up the line. Why the lead weight? Use a Mizmo tube and ¼ ounce RAL jighead.

Learn our techniques first hand by booking a trip with us. I will have four or five guides with me on the Susquehanna from mid-March until the end of April. That’s trophy time folks and if you haven’t tried this—you are missing out on one fine adventure. We love the upper Potomac and we will begin there in April also—and then there is the famous tidal Potomac, Deep Creek Lake and all those eastern shore tidal waters. So much to do and so little time.

Ken Penrod is the owner/operator of the 30-year old guide service known as Ken Penrod’s Life Outdoors Unlimited and they serve most of the fresh and brackish waters of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and District of Columbia. Ken was elected to the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Guide In1997. He has authored seven books and has been awarded four national awards for conservation work as well as 13 such regional awards. Visit his website www.penrodsguides.com for lots of information including a weekly fishing report and our magazine, LOU Magazine. Ken also operates a summer youth camp where boys between 12 and 18 are taught the fishing and shooting arts from Ken’s lodge in PA. reach Ken at kenpenrod@comcast.net or via his cell at 240-447-2206.

Ken sponsors include: Mare Inc.; Ranger Boats; Mercury Outboards; Minn Kota Trolling Motors & Chargers; Lowrance Electronics; Mizmo; Case Plastics; Rapala; Luhr-Jensen; Sufix Line; Gator Rods; Big Mouth Lure Company and NRA