New Brunswick bass phenom Jason Gogan considers the Saint John River to be one of the hardest systems to decipher because the enormous spring flow constantly reconfigures the bottom. “It’s like solving a living, breathing puzzle,” Gogan says, “where the pieces move from year to year.” Still, by focusing on sand flats with isolated, bait-attracting weeds, he caught a 4.83-pound smallmouth here last year—a notable feat considering only a handful of five-pound-plus bass have ever been landed in the province.
“Smallmouth need food to survive, so when you find the bait, the bass are never far away,” Gogan says. “The fish also take advantage of the current, so I’m always looking for seams where fast and slow water converge.” He’s found that active fish stay closer to the fast water, while inactive fish shift to the slower sections. Gogan also watches for swirling riffles on the surface, because they indicate boulders or weed patches down on the bottom. “Those are great ambush spots for smallmouths.”
Gogan starts almost every summer smallmouth session casting either a shell-white, four-inch Lucky Craft Sammy or a bone-hued Berkley Choppo 90 (below). To keep the front of the lure sitting level in the current, he spools his reel with heavier 17-pound-test Berkley Trilene Sensation. “I target the active fish from the get-go,” he says.
Once Gogan feels he’s caught all of the active fish, he switches over to a 3.8-inch Powerbait Power Swimmer on a quarter- to half-ounce jig, depending on the current and depth. To quickly and thoroughly cover the water column, he starts with a medium-speed retrieve, then slows down or speeds up depending on the mood of the bass. He sometimes even drags the swimbait along bottom to entice strikes.