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Tactics For September Smallmouth

By Craig Ritchie - September 10, 2019
There's something about September and smallmouth bass that makes a magic combination. Perhaps it's the cooler early-fall weather that makes it all so much fun, or perhaps the lack of bugs. Maybe it's that most anglers forget about bass come Labor Day, or that they've switched gears to other pursuits like hunting ducks. That's all fine with me. I like a bit of solitude when I'm catching fish like crazy.

There's a bunch of reasons why smallmouth turn on the feedbag in September. Cooler nights and fewer hours of daylight are a sure signal to bass that winter's on the way, and they need to start packing on some extra weight. And with no bothersome summer swimmers and water-skiers around, the bass can finally relax and return to their normal routine.

Even with the change in weather, the best spots for September smallies are the same ones where you caught them all summer. Rocky shorelines that drop into deeper water - and especially those with bottoms made up on boulders of all different sizes - are always good bets early in the month, and especially so if they feature scattered clumps of green vegetation. With the glorious weather that comes with this time of year, these spots just scream for a surface bait. It's probably the last time you'll be able to use a topwater lure, so enjoy the fun while conditions are ideal.

Since smallmouth bass generally prefer smaller forage, I generally stick with surface baits in the two-and-a-half-inch range. The venerable Rebel Pop-R remains one of my personal favorites, along with the equally legendary Heddon Tiny Torpedo. These are old-school baits that have been around for decades, yet bass still gobble them up without hesitation. They're easy to fish, incredibly effective, and the hits are always heart-stopping.

Later in the month as the water cools further and shallow weeds begin to die off, I like to switch my attention to deeper offshore structure like humps, ridges and saddles in water from 20 to 30 feet deep. Humps and saddles with grass or other thin vegetation can be especially productive, especially if they sit between shoreline shallows and much deeper water in the main basin.

The most dependable way to catch early fall bass is to work those rocky bottoms with small jigs. Go with light spinning gear and small, subtle jigs from 1/8- to 3/8-ounce. Stick with dull colors like black, brown or smoke, either with or without metal flakes. Similarly, go with black, brown or grey jig heads.

You fish with a gentle lift-and-drop motion, just enough action to catch a bass's attention. You almost want to sneak the jig past the fish without it being seen. Bass key in on small creatures scurrying along bottom, but the same lure vigorously bounding wildly along over the rocks can spook them. Stick to a gentle approach.

September is a great month for smallmouth, and for a whole lot of reasons, The fish are active, the weather is beautiful, and the sudden lack of boat traffic makes the whole process of fishing a whole lot easier. Little wonder it's one of my favorite months of the year.

Author Craig Ritchie
Craig Ritchie
Over a near 40-year career as a full-time outdoor writer, Craig Ritchie has fished all over the globe for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species. The author of The Complete Guide To Getting Started In Fishing, he has written thousands of articles for magazines, websites and newspapers worldwide, appeared as a guest on several television fishing programs and won numerous awards for his writing and photography. He lives in the Great Lakes region where great fishing is as close as his own back yard.
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