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Fall Smallmouth In Rivers

By Bob Jensen - November 1, 2007

Smallmouth bass can be found almost anywhere in the Midwest, and this is the time of year when they can be very active in rivers. You will need to change your approach a little bit, and you’ll also need to realize that they will be grouped tighter than they are during the warmer weather months. In the fall months, you might fish several spots and catch nothing. Then you’ll find the area where they want to be and the action will be almost non-stop. Non-stop smallmouth action is about as good as it gets. Keep the following ideas in mind and you’ll be able to get in on this action.

From now until next spring, smallmouth will group in deeper water areas in rivers. Sometimes they’ll be in deeper holes, other times it will be more of a depression in the bottom of the river that holds the fish. A spot just a foot or two deeper than the surrounding area is all it takes for a smallmouth to make that area its home.

Much of the time these smallmouth hot-spots will be mid-river. If you can find a hole just off the current, you might have found the Mother Lode for smallies. They’ll move to the edge of the current to feed, then slide back into the hole to rest.

It works best to fish both the current edge and the hole. If the fish are at the edge of the current, they’re going to eat your bait right away. If they’re in the hole, they’ll still eat the lure, you just might need to have a little more patience. Not much more, but a little more.

A jig and soft bait is best for these smallmouth. It’s hard to beat a four inch Power Grub on a Mimic Minnow jig head or a four inch Pro Power Tube rigged on a Northland Inner-Tube jig. This style jig provides a softer, more streamlined presentation for the smallmouth. Select a head size that will get close to the bottom and stay there, but will also move with the current when it is lifted.

It is best to work the bait with the current. Hungry smallmouth face into the current, as they know that any wounded minnow or bug will be washing downstream. You want your bait to be moving downstream to increase the odds of getting bit.

"If you can find a hole just off the current, you might have found the Mother Lode for smallies."

Experiment with body color: Sometimes they’ll eat whatever comes by, other times the bass will want a particular color. White, watermelon, and some of the more neutral colors are good bets most of the time.

Eight or ten pound test line is usually about right. A line that’s easy to see is an advantage, as much of the time you’ll see your line “jump” before you feel the fish. Trilene Sensation has the sensitivity and strength needed for this type of fishing.

Fortunately, most areas with good smallmouth populations have established progressive regulations to protect these battlers. A lot of abuse could be inflicted on these bass when they are grouped up in the fall. Get out now and you just might see what I mean.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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