Shallow options for fall smallmouth

About the author

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick is better known to the bass fishing world as the Smallmouth Guru. He lives in Celina, Tenn., and is the owner of Punisher Lures.

Last time we covered the early movement towards shallow water that are happening this year. We talked about catching them with topwater plugs and lipless crankbaits. This week let’s look at some other shallow lures that help catch bass when the topwater bite is off and you don’t need to go real deep.

The best choice for this kind of fishing is a spinnerbait or crankbait. Picking between the two is part art and part science. Either way, though, I’m talking about fishing shallow shorelines and the backs of creeks — classic fall locations.

When the wind is blowing in the 5-10 mph range, I generally go with a spinnerbait. I don’t want a real big one with a big profile but I do want one that’ll look like late fall forage.

My favorite is the Punisher Lures Flame Jr. It’s designed with tandem willowleaf blades. Right now they’re silver but we’re in the process of making painted blades. The idea is to match the hatch.

So far our best color is Spot Smoker. It’ll smoke every fish on a spot. It’s bluish gray with six stands of chartreuse and just a little white. That combination makes it look like a real baitfish.

If the wind is down, I’ll throw a shallow-running, shad colored crankbait. My favorites are the ones from Strike King. It doesn’t matter which model you choose as long as it’s one of the bigger ones — about the same size as a mature shad — and as long as it’s colored the same as whatever’s in your local lake or river.

The other thing that helps me decide whether to fish a spinnerbait or a crankbait is the cover. When there’s a lot of grass or wood in the area, you’ll do better with a spinnerbait. Everyone says that shallow, square-billed crankbaits bounce off of stuff, but in my experience they hang — I don’t care who makes them or how well they’re designed. A spinnerbait won’t do that.

Line is important at this time of the year, too. If the water is stained and you’re making short casts, you can get away with monofilament. But if the water is clear and you’re making long casts, you want to go with fluorocarbon. There’s just too much stretch in mono. You’ll never get a good hookset.

I always go with Berkley lines. Day in and day out I think they’re the best on the market. Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t said anything about NanoFil like I did last week. That’s because it doesn’t work as well when you’re putting pressure on the spool, like when you’re cranking hard or fighting a big fish. It’s so fine that it cuts into the line wrapped around the spool.

Next week we’ll review my three best fall topwater smallmouth plugs and talk a little about how to fish them.

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