Despite the fact that we’ve had a lot of rain this fall, the water level in most lakes and rivers is down because of the fall drawdown. And the water is cooling. The baitfish are moving shallow and most of the bass are following. Nevertheless, a lot of smallmouth, especially the bigger ones, are suspending out over deeper water as they wait for winter.
In almost all cases, they suspend away from the current. What they typically do is find a place on the opposite side of a creek or main lake point. (You’re fishing in the right place if you have to look across the point to see the channel.) There’s an eddy that forms in those areas. The big brutes seem to like what it offers — fresh, clean water and something to eat.
There are times, though, when they hold in heavier current if they have no other option. They don’t like it but if it’s an absolute necessity they find a way to make it work. Fish those places only when you have no other option.
Almost any lure that moves through the water column will catch them when they’re doing this. It’s probably the only time when I’ll throw a crankbait into open water. The trick is to make sure your bait is running at the same depth, or slightly above, the fish.
Another good lure at this time is a spinnerbait. I prefer a double-bladed one somewhere in the 1/2-ounce range.
These bass are mostly feeding on shad so I make sure my colors match the hatch. I like gray, dull silver or dingy white with a little blue, orange or chartreuse mixed in. That seems to make the best match and will provoke the most bites day in and day out.
Right now, I’d keep my baits moving along at a pretty good clip. The water’s still warm enough for the bass to chase their prey and I don’t want them to get a good look at anything. I want them to grab it out of instinct.
As things turn colder, I slow everything down but I still don’t want a stop and go retrieve. That’s for the really cold water that we’ll have sometime after Thanksgiving, say when the water’s below 50 degrees.
Obviously, some of what I just said depends upon where you live and upon what kind of late fall and early winter we have. If you live in the northern part of the country, you may already have some pretty cold weather. In some places the water could be below 50 degrees already. But even if it’s not that cold, an early winter might force us all into using a stop and go retrieve in a matter of a couple of weeks. It just depends.
Don’t think that every fish in the water is in the back of a creek right now. They aren’t. There are some big ones hanging outside just waiting to be caught by someone like you.