With all the hunting seasons opening, I’ve neglected some very important fishing available locally — smallmouth bass.
Of the two types of bass, small- and largemouth, right now the best bite is smallies. Baitfish are schooling, and when found, you’ll also find smallmouths.
Some of my favorite cold-weather smallmouth fishing has, and continues to be, not good, but it is excellent between Locks 7 and 8 on the Mohawk River. My regular two-day game plan is to launch at Mohawk Valley Marine, head west and fish all day up to Lock 8. The next day, I fish east down to Lock 7.
I’ve found there are three techniques — drop shot, small spinner and soft jerk baiting — that work well on the Mohawk this time of year.
I learned that down-sizing to the Bass Pro Shops new three-inch Stik-O-Worm in frost or baitfish colors works the best on drop shot. Bounce slowly down the channel edges and around any of the river’s standing structures. Shore anglers: They also work very well in and around the outside of the locks.
For safety’s sake, when fishing on the entry lock wall areas, I suggest wearing a zipped-up personal flotation device. As a reminder to boaters, anyone riding in a pleasure vessel less than 21 feet, including rowboats, canoes and kayaks, from Nov. 1 to May 1, must wear a PFD.
If you like to troll, do it slowly. Using my electric motor, I’ve found my old faithful one-eighth-ounce Blakemore RoadRunner (purple and orange/brown orange) lure does a great job, and try a three-quarter-inch white twister tail on a one-eighth- to one-quarter-ounce RoadRunner jig head.
By now, you’re probably wondering about the soft jerk bait. Keep one rigged and within reach all the time during this cold-weather period. The bait should be fished on a 61⁄2-7-foot medium-action spinning rod with a high-speed retrieval spinning reel (no less than 6.0:1) and monofilament no more than 10-pound test.
When the smallies find the schools of bait, the surface of the water usually erupts, so when fishing rivers or lakes this time of the year, look around continually for bass chasing bait. This is when the new 41⁄2-inch BPS Sassy Sally in the Bad Shad color does its job. I bought a couple of packages of these last month to try, and they worked well on the upper Hudson River on both large- and smallmouths, and northern pike and pickerel also like them.
Be sure to keep the Sassy Sally rod nearby, and continually look around for schooling baitfish breaking the surface. Try to get within casting distance, and drop that Sassy Sally right in the middle of the school. If you get Sally close enough to be noticed, there’s a good chance of catching several.
Throughout this stretch of
river, both east and west of Mohawk Valley Marina, you’ll find plenty of smallies. Pay particular attention to the bridge abutments, island points, the area around Alplaus Creek and around the four isles near Jumpin’ Jack’s restaurant.
For my fall cold-weather smallmouth lake fishing, I go to the Great Sacandaga Lake, and smallies can be found just about anywhere. At this time of year, I’d launch my boat at the Northville state launch and head north up the river. Start a 100 yards or so up from the launch and stay out from the shoreline about 30 yards, working the drop shot, RoadRunner or try a stop-and-go technique with a deeper diving crankbait. But always have that Sassy Sally nearby because the smallies follow and chase the bait schools there also.
One of my favorite spots in late fall is the small dam between the Great Sacandaga Lake and Mayfield Lake. Located in the far left corner of Mayfield Bay, it’s not a big dam, but the moving water there can hold some very good-sized smallmouths.
Don’t pull up close to the dam. Make long casts into its bottom. Don’t leave until you have thoroughly fished all of it, and using all of your lure choices. And on the way out, work the docks with the Stik-O-Worms and Sassy Sally, fishing anywhere you see wood and/or rock.
Speaking of rocky areas, whatever the season, I never fish the Great Sacandaga for smallmouths without fishing the numerous rock wall fences that extend from the shore out into the deeper water. In the north end of the lake, watch the shorelines for those old rock piled fences. Right now, I’d keep my boat in 10-15 feet of water and cast Sassy Sally into the shallows over the rocks. If that doesn’t work, try the other lures all the way out to the end of the rocks.
This particular end of the lake is smallmouth country, and it has plenty of the right structures. Fish the points, small islands like Beacon, the Trap Islands, Scout Island and the small no-name rocky islands. When you see a ring of danger buoys circling an area, don’t go inside the buoys with your boat, but let Sassy Sally go in there.
One of the other smaller lakes that can produce good cold-weather smallmouth fishing is Ballston Lake, where you should concentrate on the water south of the narrows. It’s deep and rocky.
If you want to take a short ride north up to Schroon Lake, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you fish all its rocky areas. Launch your boat at the town launch and motor across to the island (Word of Life). Fish all around it, then start on the shoreline north of the island and work your way south.
Remember, you must wear a PFD, and after Nov. 30, you must release all bass caught. If you get a big one, quickly take its picture, then gently return it to the water.