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Big October Smallmouth

By Mike Mladenik - October 1, 2005
October is a great time to be on the water in the Northwood's since it is probably the last full month of open water fishing. Depending on the year by late November we will see hard water. Most northern anglers will take advantage of every day, knowing what lies ahead for the next five months. Besides catching lots of big fish this is also an enjoyable month to be on the water. October starts out with peak fall colors and can end with days feel more like December.

This spring we were hit with some of the worst cold fronts I have ever dealt with. Not only was the weather unstable but we were also dealing with torrential rains. This combination made for some tough fishing. However we still managed to catch many smallmouth over six pound and countless number of five pound fish. While the summer was just average fishing I am predicting a banner year for big smallmouth this fall.

This summer food has been at a premium on both natural lakes, reservoirs and even in the rivers. The cold spring played havoc with the forage base. Besides baitfish numbers being down crayfish are also less abundant. Most of the fish we caught in the summer looked healthy but the forage base is limited and can become depleted by late fall. So my prediction is for big fish to be more accessible to anglers.

In fall weather can be unpredictable just like spring but big smallmouth become active with these severe weather changes. When fishing in October you need to be prepared for the elements. When you head out on the water with a quality built boat like my Sylvan 1800 Avenger and my dependable 150 Yamaha 4-stoke you know you are ready to handle any situation.

For fall smallmouth there is no better place to be than on a river. River smallmouth will be active from the early fall through ice up. Fall river fishing for smallmouth can be incredible both for numbers of smallmouth and size. An example was last fall which was the best I have ever seen. We boated 30 smallmouth over six pounds with the largest fishing going seven pounds. It seemed like we were catching five-pound plus smallmouth every day.

Early in October smallmouth relate to the edge of river sloughs and deep pools. The best areas will have both a slough and inflowing creek adjacent to a deep pool. As weeds begin to die in the fall baitfish will migrate downstream out of the creeks and hold on the edge where the feeder creek meets the main river. Even small creeks will hold lots of big smallmouth. In fact I prefer to fish smaller creeks and sloughs since it is easier to effectively fish the entire area.

Experience has taught me that to catch the largest smallmouth in the area you must use finesse presentation. Search baits like spinnerbaits and crankbaits will catch big smallmouth but it is common to catch only one or two big fish in an area. By using finesse presentations you will catch more fish. If the bite is tough you may need to switch to live bait presentations. The weapons you have the more big smallmouth you will catch.

As in spring and summer when dealing with big fall smallmouth I rely heavily on soft plastic jerkbaits. . Hot river colors are both minnow flash and silver fleck. Start out working a soft plastic jerk bait rigged weedless with an 4/0 Sickle Hook. With the off set bend the sickle hook will give you a much better hookset than a plain wide gap hook. Cast the weedless jerk bait over the edge of the weeds tight to the river channel. Don't worry about fishing the inner sections of the weeds. The bigger smallmouth will be holding on the edge.

Next rig up a jerk bait wacky style with an Octopus hook along the river channel. Pitch the wacky rigged jerkbait up steam and let it drift down into the edge of the creek. If you are dealing with a swift current then clinch a split shot up about one foot from the hook. The trick is to keep the worm drifting just off the bottom. It will take patience but result in huge smallmouth.

I fish these baits on eight pound Berkley XT. Lamiglas has developed a rod specially designed for fishing soft plastic jerk baits. The Certified Pro XC 724 rod is 7 foot 2 inches rod with fast action. When using a jig I use a XPS 702. In late fall before ice up smallmouth migrate downstream to the deep water adjacent to the dams. They seem to arrive on a daily basis and are ready to put on the feed bag. Food is limited and competition is fierce. Last year we where banging huge smallmouth right through ice up.

Some of the best action is right at the base of the dam and with current limited in fall fishing is easy. Since we are dealing with deep water live bait presentations work best and red tailed chubs are the best bait. They can either be fished on a slip sinker rig or with a jig. I like to utilize both presentations. Drift with a slip sinker rig until you locate smallmouth and once you locate them vertical jig. Time is limited so take advantage of every last minute. If you are like me you will be very busy trying to catch trophy fish. It is hard deciding on where to go but any time on the water is good time.

Author Mike Mladenik
Mike Mladenik
Mike has been a Wisconsin Fishing guide for 25 years, authored several books, and has his own Television Show "Fishing with Northwood's Guide Mike Mladenik". Sponsors include Sylvan/Smokercraft Boats, Yamaha Outboards, Zieman Trailers, Lamiglas Rods and Peshtigo River Rentals. For more information go to his website
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