Some of the hottest Smallmouth Bass fishing takes place in some off the coolest fall weather. This is when it’s common to find smallies schooled-up either in deeper water on the bottom, or suspended in deeper open-water searching for baitfish schools. In both situations a reliable, high-resolution fishfinder is a must to locate fish in deeper, open water.
Our friend Gabor Horvat will chase those suspended feeding bass with crankbaits until it gets too hold to fish!!
Suspended Smallmouth Tactics
I am fortunate to fish Lake Erie both on the Ontario and NY side all year long. Late fall can be amazing if you located schooling smallmouth suspended off the bottom and searching for baitfish schools. To find these I use my Raymarine fishfinder and locate the baitfish schools first…the smallies won’t be too far. The best presentation/lure to catch these fish is to either vertical jig with a vertical jigging spoon like a Mr. Champ, Hopkins Spoon, etc. or those lipless rattle baits like the Rapala Slab Shar, Rippin Shad and even the Jigging Shad Rap. To fish the above properly surface conditions have to be calm enough to be able to hold right over the fish.
Schooling Smallmouth Bottom Tactics
When I encounter schools of smallmouth holding on the bottom in water 30-50′ deep, they are usually in-active, but can be make to strike using soft-plastic either dragged along the bottom, like 4″ Lunker Tube, or fishing a “drop-shot” rig with a 4″ soft-plastic worm or minnow. This takes a little more patience into “shaking” your presentation to entice a strike and often means using a “finesse” presentation by dropping in line diameter and using a fluorocarbon leader. When you get a pick-up it’s also a good idea to set the hook gently and than let off on the drag just in-case it turns out to be a fish over 5 lb.!