The Pulse

Fall Smallmouth Bass Fishing - Hayward, Wisconsin 03/28/2015

There exists two seasonal bites where huge numbers of massive smallmouth can be targeted and caught in the northwoods of Wisconsin. Spring and Fall provide the best opportunities to catch huge smallmouth almost anywhere they can be found. Hayward provides some world class smallmouth fishing and in the fall these fish are piled up in predictable locations and can be caught in huge numbers. Learn the where and the how-to and you can capitalize on one of the most exciting and underrated bites of the season!

Early Fall

Everything I will be discussing in this article will pertain to deep, clear, cisco based lakes in Hayward. These are the lakes the hold the best trophy smallmouth action.
Fall generally starts around mid-September in the Hayward area. At this point water temps will begin to drop from their summer peaks. Once the water is in the 60 degree range smallmouth will be on the move towards shallow water. After spending all summer on deep rock (15-28 feet) they will move back to mid-lake rock in depths as shallow as a couple of feet of water. Look for locations close to deep-water structure. During this same period many smallmouth can be found roaming sand flats sunning themselves and feeding. Fish in these area are there to feed, plain and simple. Lots of bait like perch, gills and prolific forage move shallower during parts of the fall.
Big aggressive presentations are the go to in these conditions. My favorite is a ½ ounce spinner bait ripped very fast over these shallow areas. Bouncing DT-10s of the rock can be extremely effective as well. If fish are a little slower a 3/8 ounce heads on a chigger craw can really hammer some fish. This is a bite that rarely gives up any small fish. Averaging above 19 inches is normal.

Deep-water Deep in the Fall

Once the water temperature gets around the 50 degree mark all the smallmouth in these systems will move to deep wintering area in huge numbers. From this point up to ice up the bite gets better and better. There is never a larger concentration of huge smallmouth than this time of year. So how do you find these areas?

In our area depths from 15 to 25 are where 99% of these fish winter. Cribs are overall the best areas to focus. Cribs on a rock hump with access to deep water would be the ideal location. Rock humps with no cribs will hold fish as well. Before even dropping a line in the water scouting out locations can pay huge dividends. Not all possible structures will hold fish and the locations that do hold fish will hold large quantities of fish. If fish are using a rock bar you are going to mark lots of them. The closer in proximity these locations are to open water the more apt they are to concentrate big numbers.

Sometimes these locations can be the size of a boat like one isolated crib on a sand hump. This makes vertical fishing the best way to target these fish. That being said bait selection is pretty simple.

If I am fishing artificial baits I like Rapala Rippin Raps. Drop these baits baits to the bottom and very aggressively snap you rod 2 feet and let the bait fall back to the bottom only letting the bait rest on the bottom for a brief second. This is a very effective way to vertically fish these deep water fish. The best part is you can watch you lure on the graph and can basically pick each fish you want to catch.

If live bait is your thing 4-6 inch sucker minnows are killer this time of year. On days when artificials are slow I always run suckers. There are two methods that really work well. Lindy rigging and bobber rigging. In wind Lindy rigging is always the go to for more control. I run a 4 foot lead with a ¾ ounce weight and a number 8 octopus hook. Rig the sucker through the nose and hold on. Running the larger suckers attracts bigger fish and takes the fish longer to swallow the rig decreasing the number of deeply hooked fish. Giving the fish a couple of seconds and the setting the hook always results in fish hooked in the corner of the mouth.

I only run the bobber rigs when fish over cribs. Make sure the minnow is set just at the top of the crib. Then I set the rod in the rod hold with 2 feet of slack line and close the bail. This sets the hook on its own and prevents bad hook ups as well as keeps the fish out of the cribs after they take the bait.

Once you get this vertical system down you can jig the Rippin Rap and fish live bait simultaneously.

Vertical is the key component. Sit right over the fish and keep your presentations as vertical as possible. Seeing schools of 5 or more smallmouth at one time is pretty common during this time of year. Making sure you are in that school is crucial. Once you catch the school start working your way around the structure until marking more fish.

This technique has put more trophy smallmouth in my boat than any spring bite. One in three fish boated being at least 20 inches is pretty normal.

Fall bass fishing is still incredibly overlooked in the Hayward area. Fish lakes that hold trophy potential. Scout out deep water locations and focus on ones with the most character. Don’t drop a line until you are marking fish and then fish as vertically and controlled as possible. This is the best bite of the year for numbers of trophy smallmouth.