In search of big smallies

This is a special week for me. It's time to go smallmouth fishing in northern Michigan. I feel sorry for my bass fishing buddies who live in the South and don't get to experience what we enjoy every fall. Let me put it in perspective: Michigan's fall smallmouth fishing is like the first day of deer season, the opening of the NFL and your birthday all wrapped in one. It's that extraordinary.

You know I love to deer hunt. I've gone out a couple of times with my boys but didn't carry a bow. I wanted to help them get their deer. So here I am driving north to fish for smallmouths instead of hunting, but it was an easy choice. Conditions are setting up for a fabulous experience with giant brown fish. The water temperature is falling into the mid-50s, and that's when the giant fish prowl the flats in wolf packs. It's a time when you can catch 30 to 50 a day, and they're going to average 3 to 4 pounds. That may sound overly confident, but predicting the smallmouth bite this time of year is like predicting the largemouth spawn on Lake Fork when you have a full moon early in the spring. It's going to happen. I sampled some of it last week when Mark Jeffreys of flew into Michigan to shoot some videos and photography with me for We only fished a day and a half, but we caught a few over 5 pounds and several between 4 and 5 pounds.

Jeffreys, who is from Oklahoma, had a ball. He wants to come back again next year, but for three days instead of one and a half! So Monday, Mark Zona and I headed back north to film the debut of his new show, Zona's Awesome Fishing Show. It will air in early January on the Outdoor Channel. We're going to hit a handful of different lakes — blitzkrieg on northern Michigan bass. We've got two and a half days of fishing, and nothing would make me happier than to catch my first 7-pound-plus Michigan smallmouth on film.

I've had several heavy sixes, but still looking for the seven. And, man, do I need this. I've been doing a lot of appearances lately, including one last weekend for the reopening of the Nashville Bass Pro Shops that was devastated by flooding earlier this year. It was my 43rd birthday, and Zona and I signed autographs until 10 p.m. You could tell by the enthusiasm of the Nashville fishermen that they were glad to get their store back.

Despite making the whirlwind trip over two days, we were glad to be there and welcome them back. But now it's all about the smallmouth fishing. I'm planning to catch myself a belated birthday gift — that giant smallmouth that has eluded me. To do it on the Z-Train's show would make it even more special! Remember, it's all about the attitude!