When the leaves begin to change and the mornings become cool you know that the smallmouth bite will be heating up! Many anglers will target these fish in fall due to their aggressive nature and active feeding that will occur. That said, it can be tough to determine which baits to go with due to the plethora of options that fishermen have in their tackle box! Here’s a list of my “Fall Feedbag Favorites”:
Walking Topwater Bait
There is nothing more exciting than a strike on the surface! I typically try to fish this bait early morning or right at last light. Two helpful hints that I always mention to people that may not throw these baits real often are to 1.) NEVER swing hard on the hook set and 2.) watch for fish busting the surface. I almost always start reeling when I see the fish hit the bait and set like I would with a crankbait. Also, when bass are busting baitfish, cast right into the mix. They will see the bait as an injured, helpless snack. I like to follow missed strikes with one more cast, and then I will toss a Texas-rigged BioSpawn ExoStick in a color that will match the hatch OR white. This follow-up bait will connect on finicky bass that just will not commit to the surface bait.
I like to throw this bait on a softer tipped rod with 12 lb monofilament. It is important to fish mono with these baits to get the right action. The floating properties of mono will help you walk this bait from side to side very easily! The two baits that I will typically throw are a Heddon Spook and a Lucky Craft Sammy. It’s important to match the hatch, but my favorite colors are bone, translucent, and a bluegill pattern.
A jerkbait bite can be one of the more productive baits in cold-water conditions due to the dying baitfish appeal. Vary your approach from shallow to deep to locate feeding schools. From there, the cadence is the next important thing to pattern. Sometimes continuous movement is needed, but I like to do a jerk, jerk, pause presentation. Usually, I will start with a 10 second pause and work it down to a few seconds to find out how aggressive the schools are on that day.
There are many different choices when it comes to rod set-ups, but I prefer a 6’ casting rod with a 7.1:1 reel so that I can quickly reel up the slack between my movements. I ALWAYS throw these on fluorocarbon, but vary the test by water clarity and conditions. Typically, I will spool up anywhere between 8-15 lb test.
Color can be an important factor in jerkbait selection, but, again, try to match the hatch. I traditionally will use baits with a lot of natural greens, blues, and purples in them. My favorite jerkbait is the MegaBass ITO Vision 110. These baits have an unbelievable weight system and a remarkable suspending capability.
When I am looking for the big bite OR production on a tougher day I will switch over to a football jig. In fall, I like to drag them through rocks or gravel banks that I know are typically productive areas. Flipping a football jig in fall gets overlooked since it is a relatively boring presentation compared to the other two techniques, but the results are second to none!
I tend to use a 7’6” Heavy Flipping stick for this presentation with 25lb+ fluorocarbon. Crawfish, bluegill, and black/blue patterns will be my go-to colors. I like to use football jigs with the rubber skirts so they will stand up and create a more lifelike presentation in the cold water. I also like to upsize my jig trailer in fall, and the bait that I like to use for this is the BioSpawn VileCraw. This bait has a bigger profile and great action!
I hope these baits and tips will help you become more productive when the “smalljaw” action heats up in your area! For more tips and techniques, check out Fishidy for information on the smallmouth lakes near you and be sure to give me a follow!