This is a crazy time of the year. It seems like the smallmouth are everywhere. They are, too, but that doesn’t mean they’ll jump in the boat or that all you have to do to catch them is launch from your favorite ramp and start fishing with your favorite lure. There’s more to it than that.
You have to start by thinking about the season. In most of the country fall is definitely here. That means the water is clearing and dropping at the same time. I know we’ve had a lot of rain lately, but the muddy inflow and rising water will go away in a matter of a few days.
Some of the bass are out in the main lake. They’re holding in deep water — 20 or 30 feet in some places. If you want to catch them, you’ll probably have your best luck with spoons and spinnerbaits. Try to match your spoon (silver) to the size of the shad in your lake or river. That’s what they’re feeding on, so the closer you come to the real thing the more fish you’ll catch.
Jig them up and down on a fairly tight line and move around until you find a bunch that want to eat. That’s almost always below schools of shad, over submerged weed lines or around channel swings. If you go with a spinnerbait (heavy weight, shad pattern) slow roll it right along the bottom.
But not all of them will be deep. Some of them will be shallow. They do that for two reasons — some of them are still living there and some of them move from deep water to shallow water for short periods of time to feed.
Mostly you can find these fish in and around the bigger creek mouths. Avoid the backs of the creeks. They aren’t there anymore. Fish with something that looks like a shad. My choice is usually a 200 series Bandit crankbait. It runs at about the right depth and looks just like a real shad.
I also throw spinnerbaits in these areas. Again my choice is something that looks like a local shad and that I can move around from right near the top to down near the bottom.
Line is really important at this time of the year. I always use fluorocarbon. I know it can be a little stiff and unforgiving on the hookset, but it’s clear. I’m not telling you fish know what line is when they see it — I’m sure they don’t. They are predators, however, and that means they’re very sensitive to anything that doesn’t look natural.
The great thing about all this is that you can fish the way you like to fish. If deep is your thing, go for it. If shallow is your thing, go for it. And no matter which depth you choose, you’ll probably have a lot of the water to yourself. You’re friends are out chasing deer.