Fall open water techniques

The last time we talked about finding open water schools of baitfish because the smallmouth — the big ones anyway — hang out under them. This week we'll talk about how to catch those big ones.

You can catch them with a drop shot rig. Just make sure you pick a plastic bait that looks like the forage. You need to match the hatch. Remember that they're right under the schools of forage. Anything that's different will cause them to go skittish and they won't bite.

My favorite lure, though, is a silver, hammered jigging spoon. It catches more big fish because it's got more size and bulk. The big fish like to eat the big forage. The best one I've ever found is a 3/4-ounce Hopkins Shorty Jigging Spoon. It's big so it attracts the big fish, and it's heavy so it'll get down deep in a hurry. That's what I want.

But there's one bad thing about them. The hooks are really bad. You need to change the hook before you even think about fishing with one, otherwise you'll lose a lot of fish no matter how hard you try to set the hook. I swap the factory one with a No. 2 Gamakatsu EWG-style hook. It's sharp, and you won't lose so many fish with it.

This is one time I put away my spinning tackle. I go strictly with a baitcaster. I'm after big fish in deep water. I need power to get a solid hook set in 20 to 30 feet of water. A spinning rod just won't do that. I use really heavy line, too. It helps slow the fall of the spoon, and it lets me snap the rod hard when she bites without breaking the line. If the water's clear, I use fluorocarbon, but if it's got a little stain to it, I might go with monofilament. Sometimes, when the water's real deep or I'm catching real big bass, I'll use braid.

It's pretty much up to you and what you like. And always use a swivel. Sampos are the best. Line twist is a problem with a jigging spoon — even with a baitcaster. It'll weaken your line. Deep fish can be funny when it comes to what turns them on.

I've seen days when you need to jerk the spoon up 3 or 4 feet to get a bite. Then there are other times when you need to jiggle it in place a little bit to catch one. There doesn't seem to be any rule or rhyme or reason to it. All you can do is try different stuff until you find what works.

There's one other thing you need to know about. Some schools of bass won't bite. It doesn't matter what you do. They just won't bite. When that happens, you should move. It's stupid to stay there trying to make them bite when they don't want to. Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me at Stephen@thesmallmouthguru.com.

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