One of my favorite fall outdoor activities is fishing for smallmouth bass.
These fish often school tightly on small structural elements. Sometimes they can be tough to find, but once found they are often cooperative biters. Once hooked, there may be no more exciting fight than an acrobatic smallmouth struggling against an angler!
Because of the schooling nature of these fish during fall, locating smallmouth becomes key. Find one and you often find a bunch. Hard bottom areas like rock humps or flats with boulders will often hold fish. Recently, most of my good catches have come from areas featuring rocks with weeds nearby. In fact, I recently fished with a 7-year old boy who caught fish on his first three casts on a rock to weed transition.
Various presentations will catch fall smallmouth. One of my favorites is a drop-shot rig. A drop-shot is merely a small “drop-shot” hook baited with a soft plastic and tied into the line with a weight tied to the end of the line about 18 inches below the hook. The hook can easily be tied into the line using a Palomar Knot. The plastic bait is often a finesse-style worm.
This rig works great for presenting a bait precisely in the faces of smallmouth bass. Shaking the rig on a semi-slack line activates the bait, often resulting in bites. The KVD Dream Shot bait with its triangle hinged tail section quivers and shakes with the smallest movements making it a great drop-shot bait. I like the 4-inch long Dream Shot, and have had good success with KVD Magic and ghost shad color patterns during fall.
Two other key components to the rig are the weight and the line the rig is fished on. The Tour Grade Tungsten Drop Shot weights work very well because they are made from hard, dense tungsten which is very sensitive. That is important when finding bottom transition areas that often hold fish.
Because drop-shot fishing is a finesse technique often done in clear water, the invisibility of fluorocarbon line is often preferred. Fluorocarbon line also has less stretch than monofilament which again enhances the rig’s sensitivity. Eight-pound test Tactical Fluorocarbon is my line choice for drop-shot fishing.
A lightweight, sensitive rod and reel combination is the final component that makes for a good drop-shot set-up. Many drop-shot specific rods are now available from various manufacturers. I prefer the Tournament ZX Bass drop-shot rod because it is strong and sensitive, and comes at a price point many anglers can afford. Pairing it with a Tournament ZX spinning reel makes a perfect drop-shot rod and reel combination as this reel has a smooth, reliable drag which is important when battling hard fighting smallmouth bass on light line.
If doing battle with a hard fighting fish is on your fall bucket list, then smallmouth bass should get your attention. A drop-shot rig presented using some of the tips just offered will increase your odds of hooking and fighting hard fighting smallmouth!
As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com or follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook for more “fishy” stuff.