Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
roadwarrior

Fall Fishing for Smallmouth on a River

Recommended Posts

Up in the northern regions fishing season is probably just about to wrap up, but here in the Mid South it is just getting started. Softer light and cooler water stimulate the bass. Combine the changing seasons and the maturing baitfish and you have the makings of a smallmouth bonanza. Now is the right time to hit the water.

Smallmouth fishing on a river is controlled by water flow. The other factors are structure and the availability of forage. On lakes the baitfish tend to move up the arms and congregate in the back of coves. On a river the tendency is to move up river in mass. On controlled rivers, like the Tennessee, the dams present insurmountable obstacles and this creates opportunity for the predators.

Unlike their cousins the largemouth bass, bronzebacks prefer current. Unlike largemouth, smallmouth for the most part, care nothing about cover, only structure. The combination of structure and current is the formula for success. For the bass it is stealth, an ambush point that hides the predator and provides a natural flow of baitfish. For fishermen this combination is your target.

All structure in current has potential. A single large boulder, a pile of rocks, a ledge, a drop-off, a deep pool, an outcropping, ramp or wing dam that redirects the river flow are all ambush points. Everything that changes the water flow, even just a little, is important.

Flats come into play in late winter and spring, but they only act as transition points in fall. Sure a smallmouth might be moving across the area, but that is a random call. The chances of catching a bass there, this time of year, are small and really not worth your time.

The fish, every species for that matter, are focused on baitfish. That does not mean they will not strike a crawdad imitation, but small fish represent the meal ticket. I see lots of guys fishing tubes, grubs and jigs this time of year, but I rarely see them catching smallmouth. Fishermen using artificials should focus on jerkbaits and crankbaits and surprisingly, topwater presentations at certain times.

My M.O. is live bait. I fish wild yellowtail some, just because they are free, but the best baits are shiners. I fish the biggest baits I can buy on a split shot rig using the lightest line I can get away with. For me it is Gamakatsu #6 Octopus Circle Hooks rigged on 4 lb Yo-Zuri Hybrid Ultra Soft. I fish a spinning combination in five to fifteen feet of water, away from the bank.

The fishing is great this time of year. Come on down! And be sure to loosen your drag. The next World Record smallmouth bass may be just one cast away. Unless it weighs 12 lbs, please be gentle and quickly release your prize. They grow big down here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey RW,  I have noticed a couple interesting developments here in Indiana.  The SM have diminshed in presence and the LM are everywhere.  And of course the white bass are moving up river.  The other thing I noticed was a MASSIVE influx of shad minnows and I mean massive.  In one place in the river the minnows are so thick the entire river is packed from shore to shore as far as the eye can see in both directions.  What I wonder is how I am supposed to catch fish with such a huge feeding trough in their face all day?  Secondly,  Do the river smallies head upriver to winter or down to the resovoirs?  All summer I never caught LM and now its all I get.  But they are small like 10-12 inches.  Any advice would help, thanks.  Also I enjoy your postings anywhere I find them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Road you sound like a buddy I got on Norris Lake. Smallies are, for the past 70 some years, his passion. He even invented the floatin fly as an excuse to fish Dale in Jan. or Feb. with a 10 degree wind chill. He's the primary reason I've been getting my arm broke or dislocated for the past couple of years. I love everything about it, but having to throw back a 5lb.  20 incher in a Tournament SUCKS!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jsutton6,

The massive migration of mature baitfish is the reason every predator in the river is focused on "minnows" not crawdads. Although I fish the native bait a little, I prefer store bought shiners because they stand out. As the weather cools down the baitfish virtually disappear, so I guess they go back down river into deeper water. I technically fish the upper section of Kentucky Lake. I think most of the baitfish spend the winter down river in what would be called "the lake".

Now, that being said you might think the smallmouth would follow the bait and go down river into the lake, too. But that is not the case. There must be enough bait remaining to feed the smallmouth population and the current remains strong near Pickwick Dam. The smallmouth, especially the big girls, stay put.

Another aspect that may help hold big bass is the proximity of preferred breeding grounds. The fast current combined with vast pebble flats is ideal for the smallmouth spawn. They can spend their time in deeper water near these flats throughout the winter. That's why I fish deep, around structure all fall and winter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Right now I think the smallmouth bite is going on up here in Illinois. The Morning temps are in the 40s-50s but daytime temps are 60s-70s and the water is in about 55-60 something. THey should be pretty active now right? I'm scared to use jerkbaits or crankbaits because the river is REALLLLY shallow and has a bunch of rocks. I'll try topwater next time i go cause ive yet to catch a smallmouth I'll also try some shad or something.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

jsutton if you are talking about the st.joe river, the smallies arent feeding on shad, try using shiners or fatheads. also use nightcrawlers, you may also get some dandy walleye

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Then there is the downside: Although the TVA must maintain a minimum channel depth for commercial barge traffic and an adequate release schedule for power generation, that does not mean they have to provide water for recreational fishing.

Last weekend the system produced an average of only 8,000 cfs with release in the afternoon and early evening. As a result, I didn't get to fish. Inadequate water means no fishing. We have a "0%" chance of precipitation in the region this week. It looks like next weekend will be another football/ NASCAR weekend.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

RW If you are fishing live shiners in 3- 4 feet of water with rocky to boulder bottoms how would you rig for that.  I was thinking a drop shot type rig with a lighter weight just to keep the line vertical and a float or bobber to keep the bait off the bottom.  Hmmm? I got it on the #6 Octopus and split shot, light line trip.  But seems like it would be snag central around here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also I was talking to the DNR guy up here and he said they have had a lot of trouble keeping the walleye and hybrids in the resovoir when they drop to winter pool. He seemed to think they go down with the river and flush out. So would the river below the dam be better fishing than above the res? At least during the drop?

PS Whos your fav. Nascar driver?  I hope J Johnson gets the champ spot this year.  But thats just me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jsutton6,

I think a bobber might work, but I find the bigger bass very close to the bottom on the Tennessee River. Believe me, I get hung a lot. Fishing the river below the dam is far more productive around here than fishing on the lake for smallmouth bass. That would not be the case for largemouth.

My driver is Kevin Harvick, but I like #20 and hope Tony Stewart wins the Nextel Cup Championship.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

RW, So whats the deal with the TVA?  Do the locations you fish rise and fall in extremes because of let down or generation.  Or do the fish just not bite unless the "water is running" so to speak.  I am visualizing you standing in a river a foot deep and then the water comes up rapidly....HAHA.  Anyway I don't understand the dynamics of your favorite spots.  Is temperature an issue?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The TVA maintains a 21' channel and the river below Pickwick Dam is technically the upper portion of Kentucky Lake. There is always water in the river/lake. The water level varies greatly depending on the amount of electrical generation that is in play. Another factor is flood control and when all the gates are open we spill 2.4 million gallons of water per second! The required flow for smallmouth fishing is 20- 140 cfs, although we sometimes fish up to 240 cfs. Current is everything.

Ideal water temperatures are something less than eighty degrees to the mid forties. Cooler water, combined with adequate current stimulate the smallmouth to feed. Abundant baitfish and the soft light of autumn and winter also come into play.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

RW, Very good...Our river just went up 3 feet from rain and now resembles chocolate milk.  However I'm assuming the tail waters out of the reservoir are still clear and I intend to fish below the dam this weekend.  Unfortunately the only place here that has minnows of any size has plain old lake minnows which look like large crappie minnows.  But they are only 2-3" long.  I am thinking about just netting shad out of the river schools because there are some 4 to 5" in there.  What do you think?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chocolate milk never works for me. Maybe I just don't know how to fish it, but I'm a recreational fisherman so I just don't fish those days.

As I stated earlier, I sometimes fish native minnnows (threadfin) because that is what everything in the river eats. I think we are more successful using commercially raised shiners because they stand out. And by the way, various species of shiners are native, too. These baits are just not as numerous.

Here is another little secret I'll share: When the smallmouth we catch spit up minnows they are usually shiners. Now, I know for certain these baitfish are not the ones we are fishing with, the smallmouth don't steal that many and the river is too big for them to find a few of our dead ones. So, they demonstrate a high preference for shiners even though the predominate baitfish are yellowtail (threadfin minnows). Just another reason I like to fish commercially raised baits.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest whittler

Jsutton6, we most likely fish a lot of the same water, after looking at your profile.  Up untill the last heavy rains I had been catching a lot of good smallies right up in the riffles. The long dry weather had concentrated them in a high oxygen area really tight. The rivers in our area, where 4ft. is a deep hole are a far cry from where roadwarrior fishes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • fishing forum

    fishing

    fishing forum

    fishing rods

    fishing poles

    fishing

    fishing reels

    fishing poles

    fishing

    fishing

    bass fish

    fish for bass
    fish

×
×
  • Create New...