One of my favorite outdoor activities involves catch and release smallmouth bass fishing during fall. Starting in September and continuing into later fall, these fish can provide some of the best fishing action of the entire season.
Fall smallmouth bass fishing can be a feast or famine deal as the fish often school very tightly now, meaning staying on the move to find a school is paramount to success. Rock humps adjacent to nearby deep water have been my most productive spots. Add some weeds on the hump and the spot is usually even better.
Finding productive spots often involves sonar searching. The good news is that a hump that holds fish will often be productive year in and year out. Still, I always start my day motoring around a hump and looking for fish “marks” on my sonar.
When fish are located, I break out the drop-shot rigs. A drop shot rig has a hook tied into the line and then a drop-shot weight tied to the end of the line about 12-to-18 inches below the hook. Small finesse plastic baits are the usual bait choices.
A drop shot rig can be cast to likely fish-holding areas. However, when the fish are deeper, as is often the case in clear water lakes, a more vertical approach often is more productive. In this instance, it works to drop right down below the trolling motor and transducer and “sit” on fish marked on sonar below. Shaking and quivering the bait on a semi-slack line is often too much for even a finicky fall smallmouth to ignore.
Using a semi-slack line shakes the bait rather than the sinker, which can happen on a tight line. It may take a few minutes of shaking, quivering, and coaxing to get the first bite. Once the school is fired up, several more fish can often be caught in short order.
A lively minnow-imitating bait is my go-to for getting bites during fall, with the Baby Z-Too being my favorite. This small soft jerkbait floats well and has a deadly “shimmy” that smallies can’t seem to resist. The bait is also very durable, meaning you can often catch a fish, unhook, and drop right back down to catch another one without having to re-bait.
The right bait choice is a key to success, but so is choosing the right rod, reel, and line as drop shot fishing is a finesse approach requiring good feel. My rod preference is a Custom Lite drop-shot special rod designed precisely for this technique.
I pair it with a Custom Series reel loaded with 8-pound fluorocarbon line. The rod is light and sensitive, allowing me to feel the lightest of bites and the reel has a quality drag to protect light line when an angry smallmouth makes a hard run away from the boat.
Fluorocarbon line like 8-pound test Tour Grade is my choice when drop shot fishing. This line is strong and it’s nearly invisible so it won’t spook line-shy bass.
If you want to battle some strong, hard-fighting fish yet this season, consider smallmouth bass fishing this month. As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure.
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com for more "fishy" stuff.