Fall Smallmouths On The Elevator

Fall Smallmouths On The Elevator

This time of year, fall smallmouths begin crowding the elevators heading for the lower floors. In lakes, it's not unusual in northern states to find them stacking up on main-lake, off-shore humps, bumps, and rises by late September.

Fall spots for smallmouths can be hard to find on big water because they're often nondescript. A rise of less than a foot on an otherwise featureless flat can indicate the presence of clay surrounded by softer stuff. Clay, for whatever reason, is a pretty accurate indicator for the presence of fall smallmouths—probably because crayfish can burrow into it without having to dig their way back out.

I find clay on my anchor on most spots smallmouths frequent in both rivers and lakes this time of year, another good reason to just drop the hook and enjoy yourself sometimes, rather than waste electricity to operate a motor that communicates things to fish you may not want to say. If bass can't begin to associate that whirring noise above with being hooked in the face, then I'm wrong about this. But I doubt it, since laboratory experiments prove they can immediately learn to associate the color of one target with small electric shocks and the color of another target with food. Everybody knows you can still hook bass with the trolling motor on. What a select few realize is that, when you turn it off for a while, the catch rate sometimes improves dramatically.

I digress. Smallmouths around here also use the base of the tips of main-lake, shoreline-connected points and attenuating reefs and humps. Those humps and reefs, quite typically, top out at 17 to 24 feet. If it's really snaggy on top—which actually seems quite rare around here—I slowly swim Kalin's grubs, Mojo Reefer TailsCastaic Jerky Js, and other soft swimbaits just off bottom with 1/4- to 3/8-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Heads. If it's not very snaggy, I roll Yamamoto Hula Grubs on 3/8- to 1/2-ounce Gamakatsu Football 24 heads. Most of this is done with 10-pound braid with 10-pound fluorocarbon leaders or straight 10-pound monofilament—depending on weather and conditions. Early on, I find I really don't need the added sensitiviy of braid to feel smallmouths hit something in depths of 20 feet or so, and I don't need the lack of stretch to set hooks when using the jigs I've mentioned. Those hooks are exceedingly sharp.


The traditional method is to hover over a group you've marked on sonar while vertically jigging with a Cotton Cordell CC Spoon or Hopkins Shorty. I've had great success in past seasons with the PK Lures Flutterfish—with a unique hourglass shape that turns the spoon on its side to flutter down horizontally on the drop (also a great ice-fishing lure for walleyes, crappies, and bass). This year I'm trying it with the new PK Lures Panic Spoon—an articulated spoon with two flickering Colorado blades attached between segments. I'll have a report on that any day now, if I can squeeze in a little time between all these writing assignments...


Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Spawntime World Class Crappies

Spawntime World Class Crappies

Doug Stange and Brandon Fulgham illustrate spawntime crappie patterns on one of North America's most famous fisheries.

Largemouth Bass: Tricks of Our Trade

Largemouth Bass: Tricks of Our Trade

The In-Fisherman staff reveals insider swimming jig tips and tricks for big bass.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

Softbaits for Smallmouths

Softbaits for Smallmouths

Doug Stange uses softbaits from Berkley to entice finicky smallmouth bass.

Trending Articles

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a powerplant that best fits your personal needs and preferences. Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...

It was an August evening and I was wading the flats in Brewster, MA with my cousin. Here you can Other Fish

Must-Have Striped Bass Tackle

Rick Bach - May 04, 2017

It was an August evening and I was wading the flats in Brewster, MA with my cousin. Here you...

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural baits and commercial options. Other Fish

Best Carp Baits Today

Dan Johnson - June 29, 2018

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is simply a matter of putting a good bait in the right in front of them. Catfish

The Best Catfish Rigs

In-Fisherman

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...

See More Trending Articles

More Bass

What can hook wounds in bass tell us? Bass

Largemouth Bass Hook Wounds

Savannah Fernholz, Andrea Sylvia, and Dr. Michael Weber - December 17, 2019

What can hook wounds in bass tell us?

Learn how wind, water clarity impact topwater bass fishing in this episode of Beyond the Bait Powered by Streamlight.

Topwater Techniques, Lure Selections for Bass

Game & Fish Digital Staff

Learn how wind, water clarity impact topwater bass fishing in this episode of Beyond the Bait...

Fall can be one of the greatest times of the year to load the boat with big green fish. Bass

Fire Up for Fall Largemouths

Steve Quinn

Fall can be one of the greatest times of the year to load the boat with big green fish.

Todd A. Kuhn says hook geometry makes a huge difference in this episode of Beyond the Bait Powered by Streamlight.

Hook Selection for Soft-Plastic Bass Lures

Game & Fish Digital Staff - March 17, 2020

Todd A. Kuhn says hook geometry makes a huge difference in this episode of Beyond the Bait...

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.