Kamikaze Bronzebacks

By Ted Peck - October 27, 2015
Wisconsin provides a cornucopia of outdoor options in fall. These delightful distractions caused most folks to miss a silent kamikaze attack on Wisconsin's boundary waters with Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois which started around Columbus Day.

It will continue for 10 days-maybe two weeks-- depending on the weather. The 'divine wind' which howled in from the northwest recently caused water temperatures to tumble 12 degrees over just a couple of days, prompting Baka bass all over the state into suicide attacks on Rat-L-Traps and other crankbaits.

Right now water temperatures in most southern Wisconsin waters are hovering around 60 degrees. When temperatures drop to 55 most lakes go through fall turnover, resulting in slow fishing for a few days.

Falling temperatures cause little negative impact on bass living in flowing water because flowing water doesn't stratify during summer to the extent it does in most lakes.

Rivers and streams tend to hold more smallmouth than largemouth bass, with solid populations of smallmouths in at least a half-dozen boundary rivers around the state.

Largemouth bass metabolism slows drastically when water temperatures drop below 52 degrees. Smallmouth remain active in autumn until temperatures drop into the low 40's-feeding with heightened passion when a temperature drop whispers this might be the final opportunity to chow down before winter.

This behavior defies conventional wisdom of slowing and downsizing lure presentations for most species as waters continue to cool.

The Menominee River on the Wisconsin-Michgian border is some of the best flowing smallmouth water per linear surface acre in the Midwest. Fall color is already at or past peak up around Pembine and Marinette, with the next week or so offering crazy good fishing there for smallmouth bass.

This kamikaze is now impacting bronze-backed bass on the Rock, Wisconsin and Mississippi and St. Croix providing the most exciting fishing of the year for folks who can put down the bow or gun for a few hours.

My favorite weapon for kamikaze bass is the Rat-L-Trap with either a #4 Black Fury Mepps spinner or the new Rat-L-Trap Echo 1.75 squarebill the go-to options if bass are in a feeding frenzy in water less than three feet deep.

Riverine smallmouths tend to school in large numbers near small structural anomalies where it is easier to herd baitfish as this exciting fall pattern develops. A prime example for this finned rodeo is a rocky point which drops away into significantly deeper water.

The run-and-gun strategy of quickly checking ambush points until locating active bass is the best way to spend precious hours on the water over the next several weeks.

Once a pod of active smallmouths is located, changing presentation to a suspending stickbait, tube jig, senko or Chomper skirted hula grub once all active bass in the area have been educated will produce more bass at the end of the day than moving on in search of another bunch of aggressive fish.

Leaving fish to go find fish is a concept which makes little sense, especially in flowing waters.

When waters chill to the low 50's smallies may no longer be crushing crankbaits but will respond to plastics. A few degrees cooler they will still gernip suspending stickbaits like a Husky Jerk Rapala on a 'warm' afternoon on a shallow shelf adjacent to a deep water wintering hole.

When it gets to the point where your next fishing trip will probably be on a bucket they will still hit hair jigs and blade baits intended for walleyes. My favorite blade is the Echotail Teddy Cat, a willocat pattern lure which weighs ¾ oz. on a ½ oz. bait profile. The fact that I had considerable input in designing this bait has undoubtedly resulted in a need to fish it a little harder.

Another fact: you'll always catch more fish with a lure you believe in.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.