September 11th, 2013
Fall Brawl – Part 2by Joe Rodrigues November 23, 2014
In part one of the Fall Brawl article I wrote, I talked about shallow water fishing for fall smallmouth. In this second part, we are going to look at going deep and fishing vertical. As the fall moves on, temperatures continue to drop, winter sets in, and fish start to retreat to their winter homes. This is the time to move out to deeper water and find large schools of football size smallies. The tactics almost always involve fishing vertical over the schools using a tube, jigging spoon and drop shot. At this time, we transition from shallow water flats to deep water humps, and breaks and rock flats, where fish typically like to school up for the winter.
The best way to located late fall smallmouth is to start by looking for deep water transitions, breaks, humps and rock flats typically in the 30-ft to 50-ft range. Using mapping software, start locating possible locations from the comfort of your warm house before you get out into the cold elements. Once out on the lake, it’s time to employ the use of your sonar and graph to locate the right bottom type and the schools of fish. Once you locate the fish, it’s time to get to work on catching them. Toss out a marker buoy; this helps in keeping you above the school of fish and helps establish your bearings, especially on bigger lakes. If the bait pods or hooks disappear from your sonar screen, slowly work the boat out around the marker buoy until you find them again. At this time of year, the fish will tend to be grouped up by size; so if you get into fish that are averaging in the smaller pound range, it’s time to move and look for the bigger tournament fish.
Your graphs are an important tool when fishing for deep water smallmouth. You need to be actively looking at the graph for fish either suspended off bottom or right tight close to bottom. I like to refer to it as “playing video games”. Deploying either a jigging spoon or drop shot for this tactic is the most efficient. When it comes to drop shotting, having the right weight for the conditions is key to getting the bait down to the bottom as quick as possible; as well as a good drop shot rod, like the one 13 Fishing will be bringing out next spring.
Here is a quick tip for dealing with the line tangles of dropping down and reeling up fast on marked fish. Nose-hook your bait like in the picture shown or use a small swivel between your mainline and drop shot rig. When it comes to a jigging spoon using a swiveled clip will help with both the action and line twist. The setup for a spoon can be either on a casting or spinning setup; it’s whatever is more comfortable to the angler. I prefer to use braid as it gives better feeling of the bottom and bites as well. If line visibility is an issue, don’t be afraid to add a fluorocarbon leader to your braid.
On days when the wind picks up and maintaining a consistent holding pattern over fish is difficult, moving to a tube is the best option. I like to graph out a drift by locating the pods of bait and schools of bass along breaks and drop a series of way points. Using these way points you can put together a good row of potential fish. I will then go back to the top of my waypoints and work my way back, keeping my eye my tracks and various marked fish. This allows me to always be on the right path. As well, always be ready to drop additional waypoints on found fish during the drift. A lot of fishing this time of year is spent watching electronics and being ready to put baits right on fish; so having a drop shot or spoon at the ready is always a must.
Even though it’s late November, cold and the possibility of snow is the air, bundle up and get out on the lake because giant smallmouth are always biting this time of year. Most importantly always wear either a flotation suit or life jacket as the water temperatures are low making hypothermia possible if you were to fall in. Fish hard and “Make your own luck”!
A true fishing addict, Joe is always reading or watching videos on anything that has to do with fishing. He loves to study fish and their behavior as well as learn about new bodies of water. Living so close to Lake Erie, he primarily fish for smallmouth, but loves targeting other species as well. Joe completes through the BASS Nation Series at both club and provincial levels along with several other tournament series, with aspirations of one day making the Elite or FLW series as a professional.