Scott Suggs: Going Old School to Figure Out Northern Smallmouth Bass
By Lynn Burkhead
May 2, 2017
For Major League Fishing Pro Scott Suggs, the bass fishing game usually isn't all that complicated.
Even when he finds himself thrust upon a new competitive venue like the waters around Alpena, Mich., water bodies that he has no research or Intel on and water that he's never had so much as a single moment of practice upon.
But with a coveted berth up for grabs this week during the Major League Fishing GEICO Challenge Cup Select, Suggs wasn't losing any sleep over the situation.
Why? For one, he's a cool customer, the first pro to ever win a $1 million dollar payday, something that he did when he outlasted the competition and won the 2007 FLW Tour Forrest Wood Cup on Arkansas' Lake Ouachita.
For another, he's also been there, done that and has the t-shirt to prove it in the building history of Major League Fishing. If you'll remember, Suggs won the 2015 MLF Summit Cup in Waterville, Maine, becoming the first MLF Select pro to qualify for and win a MLF Cup level event.
All of which might help to explain why the Arkansas pro seemed to not be bothered at all by the unknown water and fishing challenges facing him in Alpena.
"We make our living off contour," Suggs said. "When you're fishing for smallmouths, you're always searching for (either) a big flat or some sort of travel route or feature that is adjacent to deep water."
With those two ideas ingrained in his mind, Suggs indicates that he has learned to target those two terrain features - different looking bottom contours, if you will - because he can quickly pinpoint likely places to start fishing for smallmouths.
And what would those places be?
"For one, you're looking for tight lines and a quick drop," said Suggs, who has one Forrest Wood Cup win in his six appearances, a Bassmaster Classic appearance, five other FLW Tour wins and a Major League Fishing Summit Cup title.
And in northern lakes, where there's an isolated rock or a pile of rocks, there's likely going to be a few smallmouths hanging around. And maybe even more than a few.
The same goes for flats that big groups of smallmouths - wolf packs, if you will - cruise along while seeking a ball of baitfish to ambush.
"If you're looking for those spread out contour lines on flats, they're pretty easy to find," said Suggs. "With these electronic maps nowadays, you can almost snap your fingers and find what you want to fish."
"Back in the day, I'd pull in on an area and actually find a high spot or something like that with a flasher or an old-style graph without GPS," Suggs said. "I'd take that rod and reel, pick it up and I'd fish the whole area and I'd figure out the depths, the high spots, where it dropped off, everything around it like that."
Did it work?
"I could figure an area out faster with the rod and reel than I could idling over it (with the older style flashers and/or graphs)," smiled Suggs. "That's our (business) tools, the ones that we keep in our hands and use 24-7 when we're out fishing.
"On every cast, I don't care what I'm doing, I make a countdown and I know exactly where that bait is all of the time," he added. "So I could fish a place and dissect it really fast back in the day.
"That's how a bunch of us learned all of this stuff. We'd line up a spot based on a tree behind us, a mountain in front of us and stuff like that."
In Suggs mind, the lack of distinct features can actually work to his advantage.
"Basically, any time I come to a northern lake, I try and start on a smallmouth pattern," Suggs said. "Because (smallmouths) always seem to be more aggressive and more abundant in the north. So I'll always try and start on that."
But that doesn't mean that he'll be stubborn either.
"If I can't get something going on that, I'll usually listen in (to SCORETRACKER LIVE!) and see what my competitors are weighing in because I know how a lot of them fish and what their strengths are," said Suggs with a sly grin.
"So if (the leaderboard) goes to lighting up by someone who is a largemouth guru, then I'm going to change my ways and I'm going to do it pretty quick."
Even if he has to go old school to do it, fishing only by the seat of his pants.
Something that Suggs has used to his advantage over the years, stockpiling tournament wins and career earnings while building a stellar career that most younger anglers can only dream of.
Especially if there aren't many contour lines to follow.