October 25, 2012
It could be anybody's football head, but, of course, it isn't. It's a 3/8-ounce Gamakatsu Football 24. I like to use powder paint to make them some shade of green—usually olive, army, watermelon, or green pumpkin.
The smallmouth trailers could be craws, like the 4-inch Z-Man Elaz Tech Punch CrawZ. Or a spider grub, like the Yamamoto Hula Grub. When smallmouths peck at baits like those without ever getting the package into their mouths, I slip on a twin-tail grub. If that's too much, I go to a single-tail, 5-inch Kalin's Grub.
As the water cools into the mid 40°F range, those have generally been the only choices I need to consider over the past decade. Smallmouths may come up for a deliberately worked suspending bait, but they don't seem to have the desire to chase cranks anymore. Sometimes they go crazy on cranks at 41°F. Just don't count on it.
But a football head, crawled right on bottom—that they'll eat. Generally they pounce on it with the gusto of a cat whacking a small rodent this time of year, anxious to exceed their required calorie intake by several pounds per day. But not the other day. The other day, my friend, Curtis Dumdie, and his wife Lulu were both whacking smallmouths right next to me with jig-minnow combos. And smaller shiners were outfishing redtails and suckers. And they were tipping jigs with bright, chartreuse grubs with all kinds of metal flake.
"I see it, but I don't believe it," I said. "And, even though I'm seeing it, I refuse to try that color." Stubborn, maybe. But not offended enough to reject the idea of tipping that Football 24 with a minnow. When in Rome. And I was the one that insisted bringing minnows. For the walleyes. Or just in case the smallmouths were reluctant. Whatever. Didn't want them to make a 4-hour trip for nothing.
And they were the ones in Rome. This was my back yard, after all, and they were showing me how it's done down in farm country.
Point is, a football head is always right for bronzebacks in fall. What matters is A/ How heavy, B/ How fast, C/ How Big, and D/ What you tip it with. When they won't bite, keep the football. Lose the trailer. Try another, and experiment with speed.