Mountain smallmouth in the early fall

This is the time when smallmouth fishing starts to get underway in the mountains of Tennessee and the surrounding areas. It’s a great place to have some fun on the water but, to be honest with you, it’s also when things can be tough. 

Most of the fish will still be deep and hard to target. They tend to school, feed erratically and move with little or no notice. When I fish for them — not often — I usually tie on a spoon. If you’re really hardcore and willing to spend more time looking than catching you can catch a few but…

At the same time I say that, I’ll tell you that there are a few up shallow, but they are few. When I say shallow I’m talking about right up next to the bank taking advantage of whatever cover they can find and chasing baitfish. If you like that kind of fishing, you can probably catch two or three a day. 

The best way to get them right now, based on my experience, is to target laydowns and brush that’s on the main lake or about halfway back in the pockets. It seems like they use the wood as an ambush point and to protect them from the midday light. 

The best wood will have green leaves on it, and it’ll be located on a flat or gently slopping bank that runs out into deep water. It seems like steep banks and hard bluff walls aren’t as good. I don’t know why but that’s the way it is most of the time. And, I never go all the way back in the pockets and hollows. Smallmouth stop about halfway back. They aren’t largemouth. 

Now, here’s the crazy part: The best way to catch them is with a topwater lure. You can use just about anything — a buzzbait, walkin’ stick, popper, prop bait, balsa minnow — but my strong preference is a River2Sea Whopper Plopper. There’s something about that sound that drives bass crazy when they’re in the treetops. I like the 110 or 130 size in bone. 

I make long and repeated casts around and through the laydowns and bring the lure straight back to the boat. I’ll vary the speed of the lure until I find what works at the time. And, I don’t just fish like that early and late in the day. I do it from whenever I launch my boat in the morning until I come in at night, all through the middle of the day. 

Now, here’s another crazy part: I don’t use any other bait. I never change to anything else or even switch colors for that matter. It’s all about covering water. Just throw and throw, and then throw some more. 

Final note: I am not sponsored by River2Sea. In fact, I don’t have a hard bait sponsor. My recommendation is truly objective. 

This column might sound a little different from most, but I’m telling you this is the way to go in late September and through October if you’re looking for mountain smallmouth. Give it a try.