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I'm the hottest days of summer, smallmouth fishing is my life. In southern Wisconsin creeks and rivers have some of the best fishing, especially for Smallmouth. As the temp gets lower, so does the amount of fish. During fall the fishing is non existent. Not sure why other places smallmouth fishing is peaking in the fall, but plummeting for me

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I experience the same thing in the sections of the Upper Potomac I fish.  In the summer when the water is in the upper 70s there are smallmouth everywhere I wade, but as the water cools down in the fall I have trouble finding fish.  Right now the water temp is in the low 60s and last Sunday I fished 7 hours for 7 bites.  I don't know if the fish are more spread out or have already moved out of the shallower water I'm wading.  But I struggle.

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It happens around Lake Michigan too.

It's really important to consider the baitfish.  If shad is the primary food source, you know that shad will move shallow in Fall, and smallies will follow them, so they'll be easy to catch.  If, on the other hand, something that has no reason to concentrate in a particular area is the primary food source, you're kind of screwed, because there's so much water to cover.

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I don't know the reason but the free stone streams in late fall are tough fishing for smallmouth in my neck of the woods also. Tailwaters are still fish decent but reservoirs fish better and better the colder it gets. Some of the best smallmouth fishing we have around here is during the worst cold/wind/rain/snow weather

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3 hours ago, portiabrat said:

It happens around Lake Michigan too.

It's really important to consider the baitfish.  If shad is the primary food source, you know that shad will move shallow in Fall, and smallies will follow them, so they'll be easy to catch.  If, on the other hand, something that has no reason to concentrate in a particular area is the primary food source, you're kind of screwed, because there's so much water to cover.

I'm talking about the lake Michigan Tributaries as well. I believe they move to the opening of the river, but that's just a theory. As summer went on they moved closer and closer to the lake. All of my spots further down river were completely dry

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On much of the Susquehanna, I find that water levels and a different migration pattern really come into play.  Unlike a lot of upper Midwest rivers or the Tennessee River, it doesn't flow into a whole lot of reservoirs or lakes until it gets nearly to the Chesapeake.  Because of this, even in winter, fish will still sit along current breaks (points and bridge pilings are excellent) so long as there is protection from the current and access to deeper water.  In between (fall), the trickiest part for me is just figuring out a pattern, which I find is mostly dependent on water level and bait fish.  If water is rising, smallmouth move away from fast current and to the shore and feed voraciously - spinnerbaits, chatter baits, and lipless rattling cranks are money.  If the levels are low and current slow, they can be following bait anywhere, and it can be way more tricky.  For example, I was out 2 weeks ago with crazy low water levels and water temps from 55-60.   I was seeing fish, but could hardly buy bites in shallow, fast runs and tail outs (3 weeks earlier I could have caught 20-50 fish on this pattern).  Instead, they were holding in slow current (back bays/oxbows even) near matted vegetation ambushing bait and smashing schools of perch over deep, open water with little current.  X-Raps and Shadow Raps saved my day. My biggest came right after dusk fishing a chatter bait with a 4.3" swimbait trailer near bridge pilings at a tail out/ledge.   It took 3/4 of the day to find active fish, but an 18" smallie that thinks she's a 5lber smashing a chatter bait you can barely see makes it totally worthwhile.  

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17 hours ago, Steveo-1969 said:

I experience the same thing in the sections of the Upper Potomac I fish.  In the summer when the water is in the upper 70s there are smallmouth everywhere I wade, but as the water cools down in the fall I have trouble finding fish.  Right now the water temp is in the low 60s and last Sunday I fished 7 hours for 7 bites.  I don't know if the fish are more spread out or have already moved out of the shallower water I'm wading.  But I struggle.

I believe what is actually happening is that the smallmouth are starting to concentrate near areas where they will spend the winter. This leads to long stretches of river with few smallmouth this time of year. Check out these Youtube videos. They talk about winter locations and tactics.

 

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Thanks for the comments and the videos guys!  I'm sure part of my challenge is that I don't have a boat or kayak so I'm wading or fishing from the bank.  Either way I'm pretty limited in how much river I can cover during a fishing trip.  I can't search and search until I find fish, I have to pick an area I hope will hold some fish.  I'm going to keep looking for new parts of the river to fish this fall/winter as they have to be in there somewhere!

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10 minutes ago, Steveo-1969 said:

Thanks for the comments and the videos guys!  I'm sure part of my challenge is that I don't have a boat or kayak so I'm wading or fishing from the bank.  Either way I'm pretty limited in how much river I can cover during a fishing trip.  I can't search and search until I find fish, I have to pick an area I hope will hold some fish.  I'm going to keep looking for new parts of the river to fish this fall/winter as they have to be in there somewhere!

the cool thing about winter holes, once you find one you can usually count on it for years and years, on the Upper Potomac they can be very small areas (like the size of 2-3 parking spots)

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I have an area in a river around here that gets stacked with 3-4 pound smallies for about 3 weeks in late summer / early fall.  Then they disappear.  It's all a part of food source and migration routes.

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