The roof of a river is an interesting place. Fall river smallmouths in lakes tend to move deeper, and the topwater option is gone until next year. In rivers, the opposite happens. Smallmouths tend to feed shallow water right up until the water drops to 41°F or so.
Chris Beeksma admitted he'd never experienced it. "I've heard about it," he said. "But I've never really fished rivers in fall." Poor guy. He's "stuck" up there on Chequamegon Bay with all those six and seven pounders.
So I pulled the boat over on a flat behind an island—a spot I honestly seldom fish, but I knew the area was primarily 3 to 5 feet deep. "This is the best spot on this part of the river for topwaters," I said.
Chris is so tuned in to the usual fall tactics on still water, he wasn't prepared for a topwater bite. I wasn't either, really—because the water was up and most of the spots in the area we were fishing were 8 feet deep. But I always have a little of everything on board, so I dug up a popper and handed it to him. Over the next 45 minutes or so, Chris popped his way to 5 or 6 nice ones, and had several others blow up on it that he missed.
I tried an old favorite—a Buddha Baits Pop Fire. They don't make them anymore, but they hang in the water with a very interesting profile—with the tail underwater, pointing down at a 45° angle. You can only find them on E-Bay anymore. Once upon a time, it was the only thing to throw on the Mississippi. About 15 years ago, it was the best thing to throw every day for 6 solid weeks—the most incredible stretch of topwater action I've ever experienced. But the smallmouths we found the other day weren't interested in antiques, apparently. Fishing memories is like that, sometimes. Excuse me. Gotta take a call from Shaw Grigsby....