I know it’s the middle of August but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start thinking about fall. We’re already starting to see alternating cold fronts and cooler nights. That, along with the rains we’ve been having lately and the shorter days, will quickly cool the water. Once it drops a few degrees, everything will start moving into the shallow water, fall feeding period.
Everything starts with the shad and other forage in the lake. At first they move right up to the mouths of the creeks, cuts and sloughs. The small places will be active first. They cool faster than the big places. But finally the bigger stuff will cool, too. It’s an ongoing process that moves back, away from the main lake, farther and farther. It doesn’t stop until winter. Then everything moves the other way.
I’d guess that in most of the country the small places will get active in a couple of weeks. The bigger areas will take maybe until the middle of September. That’s just a guess, though. The weather controls everything. We never really know what it’ll do. My advice is to watch what’s going on around you and adjust your fishing to your local conditions. Every lake is different.
Early in this cycle, I target the first point in the fall feeding areas. Sometimes that’ll be right on the edge of the main lake. As everything cools down, I move back until I’m fishing the fourth or fifth point back. I keep going until I can’t float my boat anymore. Even then I cast as far as I can into even shallower water.
Good baits for this kind of smallmouth fishing are crankbaits, jerkbaits — both hard and soft — and spinnerbaits. Match the local forage with both size and color whenever you can. If you’re in doubt about what to throw, go with a natural, shad-looking color. That’s good almost anywhere.
The reason I’m talking about this now is because I think too many guys wait too long to get started in the fall. In the spring, everybody gets on top of things but in the fall they forget that just because it’s hot in the middle of the afternoon doesn’t mean it’s still summer.
Another thing that happens is that if you wait until the middle of fall you can’t fish the best lures. It’s basically impossible to fish a crankbait, jerkbait or spinnerbait through a mess of dead leaves. Half of your fishing time will be spent pulling junk off your hooks.
One other thing I want to mention is creek fishing. Because they are so small, they respond very quickly to the weather changes we’ve been talking about, and so do the fish that live in them. You can have a lot of smallmouth fishing fun throwing in-line spinnerbaits, Beetle Spin-type lures and tiny crankbaits in them. It’s no exaggeration to say the creeks are on fire, right now while you’re reading this column.
Get out early this fall, if you can. It’ll be winter before we know it.