Chris Beeksma had some time off around his birthday, and his wife Sandy was heading to the Sylvania Tract to do some camping. He wondered if I was free for a day on the river. He guides on Chequamegon Bay, and doesn’t really have river bass in his immediate environment.
Most years, largemouth bass have reclused themselves to wintering habitat off the Mississippi River by now. This year, they’re still living large in the big river, chowing on migrating panfish, suckers, and other baitfish.
Bass have a gazillion little backwaters where froggin’ is king all summer long. In fall, they come out of the dying vegetation to steep ledges on the main river channel, where they become vulnerable to crankbaits, swimbaits, jigs and craws.
Chris took this one on a soft-plastic swimbait in about 10 feet of water, reeling it slowly along near the river’s floor. We caught several on cranks, like the Rapala DT 6. A few came on 5-inch Kalin’s Grubs, swimming near bottom on 1/8-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Heads.
Laydowns extending to the river channel, beyond the dying weeds, have fish right now. Brush-guard jigs with craws will pull them out of there. Just pitch to the juncture of shore and wood and let the jig fall.
Fox-hair jigs really excel for late-season smallmouths. Tipped with a 3-inch craw, black-blue or natural orange-brown fox-hair jigs with a fiber guard score big in timber and along deep weedlines.
Pretty soon, the big girls come out of the jungle to play. They’re always last to the party. October is prime time. For now, water temperatures are finally dipping under 60°F, and it won’t be long before largemouth bass are concentrated near those habitats ideal for them to survive the winter in fine shape.