The fall colours were in full effect, dotting the shoreline on a crisp, October morning. I was fishing for deep-water smallmouth around rocks and boulders in 20-30 feet of water. I jiggled my tube jig along, paused, and then felt a slight tick. I set the hook and the fight began. The three pound smallie bulldogged for a few minutes, but eventually got in net range and was landed. After the hook was popped out, the chunky specimen swam away strongly after being released.
Good Fall Baits
For a more subtle approach, consider natural coloured grubs and tube jigs. Work these baits along the lake bottom, crawling them in and around boulders. I prefer a vertical jigging approach as opposed to casting to cover deep water. With the bait directly below me, I rely on my trolling motor to slowly move the boat so I can methodically pick apart the underwater structure. I have found that raising the bait, quivering it, and then pausing before letting it fall to the bottom can be an excellent trigger for reluctant smallmouth when vertical jigging.
Of course, another excellent tactic is dropshotting. Finesse tubes, minnows, or stick baits will all take smallies on a drop shot rig in the fall. Remember that when working these baits, less is more. The key is picking a plastic that will still look lively when you lightly shake the line, without moving the sinker along the bottom. Often, these minute vibrations are hard for fish to ignore.
Line and Snags
That said, if you're finesse fishing and slowly covering water, you shouldn't snag too often. Key to avoiding snags is not setting the hook when you get hung up. It takes some time to get a feel for it, but after a few hours deep-water jigging you'll learn to discern between strikes versus underwater obstacles. When you do find yourself snagged, try using the "bow and arrow" method. This is done by pulling grabbing the line just above the reel, pulling it out (to bend the rod) and then letting it snap back. The quick snap of the rod tip can often cause baits to pop out of snags.
Sensitive, Balanced Rods and
Catching fat, smallmouth bass on a crisp autumn day is one of my favourite fishing experiences. It can take some time to find smallies on an unfamiliar lake, but once you do the action is often worth the wait. Give this approach a try this fall and get a few more weeks of open water fishing in before the ice season starts.