Last time we talked about the arrival of fall and its effect on smallmouth bass. This week I want to expand on that by talking about how the changing weather that comes with this season — hot for a day or so and then cool for a day or so — can actually be your friend, if you let it.
When I was writing last week, the days were in the 70-80 degree range in most of our country, and the nights were dropping to 50 degrees, or even lower in some places. Well, guess what? The days are back in the upper 80s and the nights aren’t much lower than 70. This has affected the fish, but it hasn’t ruined the fishing.
Most everything right now is in open water. The baitfish are schooling as they get ready for their fall migration into the creeks and backwater areas. When it gets cool, or in some cases downright cold, they’ll move up towards the surface. When it heats up, like it has this week, they’ll drop down a ways.
As this movement happens, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind. First, it’s important to understand that these movements are almost all totally vertical. The baitfish don’t go farther out into the lake when it gets hot and they don’t head for the creeks when it gets cool.
They stay pretty much where they are except that they move up and down.
The other thing is that the movement towards shallow water (horizontal) is gradual and rarely amounts to much when you measure it over a day or two. It’s more like weeks. This horizontal movement picks up speed as we get deeper into the fall, though. That’s because the cool spells get cooler and the warm spells get cooler, too.
Regardless of where the baitfish are, however, the smallies won’t be far behind. They’ll be below them by anywhere from 2 to 10 feet. A lot of guys think they’re waiting for dying bait to drift down towards the bottom. Maybe, but I wouldn’t put any money on it.
My thinking is that they simply follow their food source and that the easiest way to eat is to hang around the baitfish and pick one off from time to time.
The best way I know about to catch open water smallies is to figure out how deep they are and then pick your lure accordingly. If they’re deep, I usually go with a shad-looking hard jerkbait. There’s a hundred of them on the market. Rapala (X-Rap) has a good one and so does Smithwick (Rogue).
If they’re up near the top, I always start with a Zara Spook or a buzzbait. Most anglers think of cover when they think about buzzbaits, but not me. It’s a great open water lure when it’s used at the right time. Sometimes fishing a spinnerbait real fast just under the surface will load the boat, especially when they don’t want anything on top.
Let the weather help you find fish.