Smallmouth bass have been a fall fascination of mine for years. Great sport on the end of the line, cold October days see these aggressive predators schooled up on deepwater structure chasing down anything that moves. One key point to consider when looking for areas that are holding fish at this time of year is that all spots are not created equal. On a medium sized lake like Falcon you might have most of the large bass in the lake in three small areas. This can make finding them somewhat of a chore but when you do, look out!
One of my first experiences with fall bass came on Lake of the Woods in Ontario many years back. Trying to find some late fall walleyes, two friends and I fished a series of islands that had a variety of structures nearby. This included shallow sunken rockpiles, weedgrowth and sharp drop-offs into the deeper water of the main lake basin. Bingo! Smallmouth bass were everywhere gobbling up anything that we threw their direction.
Fall smallmouth will hit a variety of lures; jigging spoons, jigs and plastic, live bait rigs with minnows all will work, some better than others depending on activity level. All predators including pike, muskie and even walleye will use similar areas at this time of year, prime ambush spots for open water forage which could include ciscoes and whitefish that are moving up on reefs at this time of year to spawn.
Later in the fall when water temperatures drop below fifty one degrees fahrenheit, smallmouth move even deeper, roaming sharp drops near the main lake basin. When the bass are positioned like this, I prefer vertical jigging with a jigging spoon tipped with a small plastic power minnow. The erratic swimming motion of an aggressively fished jigging spoon can solicit viscous strikes from even the most inactive smallmouth. This pattern worked on a recent trip to Tobin Lake in Saskatchewan but for a different species. We located a stack of walleye along a drop-off on a main lake island. By positioning the boat over the edge of the reef with the front electric troll motor we caught both trophy pike and walleye. This is also an excellent pattern for fall lake trout, with fish that will rip the road out of your hand.
Once fish are found, depending on depth and wind, it is usually better to anchor. This allows you to keep your lure and line as vertical as possible, a key when fish are just a little off on the bite. Sometimes, it is impossible to get an anchor to hold because of depth or bottom composition. At Tobin, the anchor would not hold, which meant precise boat control was required. Luckily for us the wind dropped and we were able to stay in a small area marked with a floating orange buoy, a key when trying to maintain your location. Areas like this are usually not close to shoreline so this becomes a critical factor in staying on fish.