As the water cools and leaves change color, smallmouth bass begin to feed voraciously — bulking up for the long winter that lies ahead. It is also a timely coincidence that football season is in full swing, as many giants you hook will resemble the gluttonous shape of the symbolic pigskin.
Why they work: Smallmouth bass love to clobber a fast-moving spinnerbait. As water temperatures drop, fish will be actively chasing down prey — and this lure mimics their food of choice perfectly. I like to use spinnerbaits in the fall as a search lure. They can cover a lot of ground and help you locate fish fast.
How to fish it: If the wind is up and waves are surging, toss these baits shallow against islands or shorelines for sure-fire action.
What to use: One-ounce baits get the nod at this time of year, with willow leaf blades getting the most looks. A white and chartreuse skirt with silver blades is a great choice.
Why they work: Appealing to a smallies appetite for baitfish, jerkbaits can trigger a feeding response that can only be labelled as opportunistic.
How to fish it: An erratic jerk and pause during the retrieve mimics a wayward or dying minnow, ringing the dinner bell loud and clear.
What to use: Choose 4- to 6-inch baits at this time of year and experiment with natural and flashy colors. Depending on the mood of the fish, suspending or floating models will both work brilliantly.
Why they work: Before the water temperature takes a hard downward spiral, smallmouth bass will spend the majority of the day up in the shallows and actively feeding. A shallow, square-billed crankbait will often work magic in getting them to bite.
How to fish them: These baits are a no-brainer to work. Simply toss them out and reel them in.
What to use: Look for a bait between 2 3/4 and 3 1/2 inches in length. Carry a variety of baits to cover various water depths. My old standby is a lure that dives between 2 and 4 feet deep.
Why they work: With an alluring tail movement and lifelike profile, soft swimbaits are a top choice when chasing fall smallmouth. One thing I like is the ability to cover a wide range of the water column — something many lures can't offer.
How to fish it: Don't try to be fancy with this bait. A slow, methodical retrieve works best.
What to use: A bait between 4 and 5 inches in length is your best bet.
Football Jig/Creature Bait
Why it works: A football jig, coupled with a creature bait is a perfect tandem for when fish are sitting on bottom. This combo mimics the look and movement of a crawfish to a T — and fall smallmouth will readily gobble it up.
What to use: Weights vary depending on water depth, so carry various sizes. As for the plastic portion, 3.5 inches is a proven performer for me, with brown, orange or purple hues paying the best dividends.