Pound for pound, the smallmouth has to be one of the best fighting of all the freshwater game fish, and now is the time to hook up with them.
Those cool nights we had last week brought them to life on a lot of our local waters. If you are looking for a good fight with a trophy smallie, now is the time to get out on the water.
Throughout the summer these feisty fish spend most of their time in the deeper water, but with water temperatures dropping and the decrease in boating traffic, they are cruising much shallower. The action can, and does, happen throughout the day. As a fall hunter, I still hunt early morning and late afternoon, but late morning and early afternoon, I fish for fall smallies.
My two biggest smallmouth bass — six-pound, three-ounce and six-pound, seven-ounce catches — came in mid-October between 2 and 3 p.m. One came from the Great Sacandaga Lake, and the other from the Mohawk River. And both were taken in water no deeper than five feet.
Although these great fish are highly susceptible to both lures and live-bait offerings dropped in front of their noses, finding them does require a little knowledge and observation on the part of the angler. Here are some of the approaches that successful fall smallmouth anglers are using
on our local lakes that you can try.
Let’s begin with the Mohawk River. The river has some of the very best fall smallmouth fishing in the Northeast. It begins in the Colonie/Niskayuna pool, and continues on up to and including the stretch at Canajoharie. Each of these pools offers a whole new smallmouth fishing experience.
In the Colonie/Niskayuna pool, between locks 6 and 7, most of the smallmouth activity will begin above the Northway around the islands and prominent points leading up to the lock. But stay behind the danger buoys.
In the Rexford pool between locks 7 and 8, the smallmouth action begins west of the Rexford Bridge. You can start your search on both the channel side and inside of the narrow, rocky island on the north side of the river and fish right up to the mouth of the Alplaus Creek, about a mile up river. Several miles up there are three islands (Cayuga, Onondagas and Oniedas) that hold good fall fish.
In the next pool, between locks 8 and 9, concentrate on the points around the river bends and any of the overhead bridge abutments.
My favorite fall smallmouth pool in the fall is between locks 9 and 10. It is here on the eastern end of Swart Island, around red buoy marker 186, that I caught my six-pound smallie. I recommend you fish this whole island on the channel side.
From Lock 10 in the Amsterdam area and on up through Lock 15 and Canajoharie, there is an abundance of smallmouths holding structure. Take your time, and you should have an exciting day of fishing.
The Great Sacandaga Lake is another easy-to-get-to lake that provides good year-round smallmouth fishing. But it is at its best in the fall. My first fall trip here begins right at the boat launch site in Northville, where I drop the trolling motor down and start fishing upriver. Watch your depths, and fish it all slowly on both shorelines.
From here, I return to the Northville Bridge fishing its abutments and then move to the Kenyon Island Group. Throughout this lake are a number of buoy-marked shoals, most of which will hold smallmouth populations year-round, but especially in the fall. Fish as many of these shoals as you can, and when you find the schools, work it out.
Other areas that have been good to me are Trap and Scout islands and the point and shoreline near McMurray’s Boat Livery in Broadalbin. You can get a map of the Great Sacandaga Lake by calling the Fulton Montgomery County Tourism Department at 725-0641 or emailing them at www.info@fultonmontgomeryny.-org.
I asked 10 avid bass tournament anglers to give me five lures they use when fishing for fall smallmouth bass. Here are their choices, in their order of preference.
The most popular, which surprised me, was a chartreuse/white skirted quarter- and half-ounce spinnerbait with a single willow leaf or Colorado blade.
Their second choice, which I thought would be their first, was a soft white or gray/white five- to six-inch soft jerk bait like the Slug O.
Third choice was the ever-popular Pop-R in a variety of colors. Speaking of Pop-R and other top-water lures, why is color important? How can a fish that is underwater see the color on the top of the lure? Remember, a good lure first must catch the fisherman; then the fish.
Fourth choice, and number one on my list, is the wacky worm; especially when you encounter smallies chasing bait on the surface. Quite often, especially on the Mohawk, I have seen bait breaking the surface being chased by a school of bass, and a wacky worm tossed in their midst usually will be gobbled up as soon as it hits the water.
The last choice of the anglers was a real surprise: a Firetiger colored half-ounce Rat-L-Trap.
For me this fall’s smallmouth fishing has been very good, and I believe it will get even better. One thought as to tackle: I highly recommend you downsize a bit and use a graphite medium light six- to 61⁄2-foot spinning rod with at least a 5.1:1 gear ratio spinning reel and spooled with no heavier than eight-pound test monofilament.
This combination will give you the sensitivity, strength and most enjoyment when that three-pound smallie tail walks its way across the water surface. And when you land it, do not forget Fish Tales.