Smallmouth bass are one of my favorite fish species to pursue and, these scrappy fighters can provide some of the entire year’s fastest fishing action during the next few weeks. Targeting big fall “smalljaws” is, in fact, one of the highlights of my entire outdoors year!
Fall smallmouth bass fishing is often a feast or famine deal as the fish often school very tightly now and if you aren’t on a school, you probably won’t get bit. My best fall spots over the years have been rock humps adjacent to nearby deep water. Throw in some weeds on the hump and the spot is usually even better.
I use my sonar to find these spots, with the good news being that once a good spot is found, it will often hold fish year in and year out. I do like to motor around a hump and look for fish “marks” on my sonar, so I know precisely where on a hump the fish are holding.
When a good spot is found, I break out the drop-shot rigs. Drop-shot fishing involves tying a hook into the line and then adding a drop-shot weight about 18-inches below that hook to the line’s end. A small finesse plastic bait is then usually attached to the hook.
The rig is often cast to likely areas or, in clear water lakes where the fish hold in deeper water, it works to even drop right down below the trolling motor and transducer and sit on fish marked below. Shaking and quivering the bait on a semi-slack line will often get fall smallies to aggressively eat the bait. Utilizing a semi-slack line will shake the bait rather than shaking the sinker, which tends to happen on a tight line.
Patience is often key here as it might take a few minutes to fire up the fish, though it’s often game on once that first bite is coaxed as several more can often be had in short order.
This is a finesse approach, so using the right rod, reel, and line are important as well as using the right bait.
A bait new to the market recently, the Baby Z-Too, was simply deadly when drop-shot fishing last fall. This bait is a small, soft jerkbait that floats well, is very flexible, and has a deadly “shimmy” that smallies can’t seem to resist.
Plus, because the bait is very durable, you can often catch a fish, unhook, and drop right back down to catch another one without having to re-bait.
The Lew’s Custom Lite Speed Stick drop-shot rod is designed precisely for this technique. Pair it with a Custom Speed Spin reel filled with 8-pound fluorocarbon line, and you have a great rig for droppin’ on smallies. This rod is light and sensitive, and the reel has a quality drag to protect light line.
A smooth-handling fluorocarbon line like 8-pound test Tactical is my preference, as it’s nearly invisible so it won’t spook line-shy bass in clear water, increasing the odds for success.
If you want to increase your odds for fishing success this fall, consider smallmouth bass and drop-shot rigs.
As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure.
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com or follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook for more "fishy" stuff.