Angler with a smallmouth bass caught during the fall

Autumn is a wonderful time to go fishing for a good number of reasons:  There is less fishing pressure in most places, the scenery and wildlife watching can be outstanding, the weather is generally very pleasant, and the catching can be fantastic.  Most species of fish go on the bite in the fall and they can be taken by a number of techniques.  But if you want to get bit, the following are three fall fish techniques that are tops for walleyes, largemouth, and smallmouth bass.

The biggest walleyes I’ve ever caught have been caught in the fall, October, and November.  And the best days for numbers of walleyes were in the fall as well, October and November.  We’ve caught’em on crankbaits at night and live-bait rigs during the day, but if I was limited to only one way to catch numbers of walleyes in the fall, it would be with a Fire-Ball® Jig/minnow combination.  Rigs with minnows are outstanding in the right situation also, but jigs can be fished vertically in deep water or cast to walleyes in the shallows.

Eighth-ounce jigs are perhaps the size of jig used the most year-round, but in the fall, you need some in every size.  In some lakes, the walleyes will be shallow and a sixteenth-ounce or eighth-ounce size will be best, but in many lakes and rivers where the fish are deep or there’s current, a quarter-ounce size will be the minimum.

When you’re looking for numbers, a three or four-inch minnow will be best, but on big fish water, go with a larger minnow.

One of my all-time favorite places to fish for largemouth bass is in the Alexandria Lakes region just off I-94 between Fargo and the Twin Cities.  This area is so good for so many species of fish, but it’s the largemouth bass that keeps me coming back, and it’s going to be a crankbait on the end of my line that I’m first going to show those largemouths at this time of year.

In my mind, the best way to fish these bass is to find a deep weedline, position the boat a medium to long cast from it, and start throwing the crankbait.  Most of the time I’ll start with a crankbait in a blue/chartreuse color, but natural colors are productive also.  Long casts are good, so a 7-foot medium-action casting rod teamed with a Speed Spool reel will be favored.  The Speed Spool reel lets me work the bait quickly in search of active fish.  Fluorocarbon in a 15-pound test is very good for this tactic.  It’s tough and doesn’t stretch too much.  Back off a bit on the reel’s drag with this minimal-stretch line.

Last idea:  Kabetogama Lake in northern Minnesota has the reputation of being a world-class walleye lake, and it is, but it’s also a world-class smallmouth lake in the fall, and drop-shot rigs are the way to catch those smallmouths.  Actually, there are several ways to catch’em, but a drop-shot is so good on Kab and everywhere else that smallmouth swim it’s become the go-to rig for many successful anglers.

A drop-shot rig is constructed so the hook is above the sinker.  There are lots of diagrams available that describe a drop-shot rig so much better than I can with words.  Attach a drop shot half shell to the hook and use enough weight to maintain good bottom contact.  In deep water fish vertically, in shallower water, you can pitch the rig.  Fish quickly until you find the smallmouth, then fish the area very thoroughly.  If you catch one there will almost always be others nearby.

There are so many more ways to catch fall fish, but the methods just highlighted will give you an outstanding opportunity to be successful in your fishing in the next few weeks.  All you need to do is get on the water.

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By Bob Jensen

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