Droppin’ on Fall Smallies


I like spring and summer for all the great open-water fishing opportunities they offer. Fall, however, is my absolute favorite season. Not only am I an avid hunter, but this time of year is often “peak bite” for many fish species. In fact, targeting fall smallmouth bass with spinning tackle and drop-shot rigs is probably my all-time favorite fishing pattern!

Fall smallmouths can offer outstanding action. I have been fortunate enough to have been on several bites where the action was fast and furious. A few years back, for example, we filmed an episode of Fishing the Midwest TV on Lake Kabetogama where two partners and I experienced several “triples” (three fish on at once). Not only did we catch lots of fish, but we boated fish in the 5- to 6-pound range as well!

While that kind of action does happen in fall, this can also be a feast-or-famine-type bite as the fish often school very tightly, now. If you aren’t on a school, you simply won’t get bit! My best fall spots over the years have been rock humps adjacent to nearby deep water. Throw in some weeds in the area and, often, the spot is even better.

Finding these areas is often not that difficult with today’s electronics. I look for humps on the mapping feature of my Axiom sonar unit and then cruise over those areas using DownVision and SideVision to look for rocks, weeds, and fish. DownVision and SideVision do an outstanding job of clearly showing me rock and weeds under, and to the sides of, the boat as well as help find the fish.

Drop-shotting into the best bite
When a good spot is found, I break out the drop-shot rigs. Drop-shotting involves tying a hook into the line and then adding a drop-shot weight about 18-inches below that hook to the line’s end. A small finesse plastic bait is then usually attached to the hook.

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The rig is then pitched or cast to likely areas or, if the fish are in somewhat deep water, it works to even “mark” them on sonar and drop right on them! Twitching, shaking and quivering the bait on a semi-slack line will often get fall smallies to aggressively eat the bait. Utilizing a semi-slack line will “shake” the bait, rather than shaking the sinker which tends to happen on a tight line.

This is a finesse approach. So, the right rod, reel, and line are important, as well as the right bait. I have been using KVD Dream Shots and KVD Drop Shot Half Shells a great deal, the past couple years, with very good success. These baits are small in size, but big on fish-attracting action when quivered or shook. Various color patterns work with these baits. My favorites are KVD Magic and Sexy Shad.

The Lew’s Custom Lite Speed Stick drop-shot rod is designed precisely for this technique. When paired with a Custom Pro Speed Spin loaded with 8-pound fluorocarbon line, you have a setup perfect for droppin’ on fall smallies. This rod is light and sensitive and the reel has a quality drag to protect light line and help guarantee that hard-fighting fall smallmouths end up in the boat!

Traditional monofilament line will work for drop-shot fishing. However, I prefer Tactical fluorocarbon line because it’s nearly invisible underwater. Since much of my drop-shot fishing is done in very clear water, this invisibility decreases the odds of the fish getting line shy.

If you want to increase your odds for fishing success this fall, consider smallmouth bass and drop-shot rigs. The tips just offered can, in fact, probably help you “get the drop” on some big brown bass this fall!