Over the decades, I’ve seen a multitude of magazine articles with titles like these, raving about fall smallmouth bass fishing. And it’s true.
At times, fall can offer some of the most spectacular fishing of the year. However, many articles touting fall smallmouthing are so simplistic, so generic or downright misleading that they are actually worthless.
Let’s look at fall as it actually occurs.
The early fall is generally the period that writers mean when they hype “fast fall fishing.” Water temperatures are still relatively warm but, food sources are declining, and the smallmouth bass’s energy requirements are high.
This can all add up to those “died and gone to heaven” days that smallie fans fondly recall years later. I’ve had plenty of days with exceptionally high number of fish, and I have also seen many big fish caught during the early fall period.
Depending on the year’s weather, the early fall period can occur anywhere from early September to early October. One big change from summer is the smallies’s switch from crayfish to a minnow diet. They will still eat some craws, but on most waters cooler temps make crayfish less active and available. Plus crayfish quit molting, so they’re hard-shelled and less appealing.
But minnows, including shiners and chubs, are now good eating size and readily available, so smallmouth bass increasingly focus on them. Especially when the water is still 60 degrees or more, these minnow-chasing bronzebacks sometimes nail topwaters with gusto.
However, early fall surface fishing isn’t as sure a bet as it is in summer. Instead, fish often want you to mimic the motion of darting minnows.