There are certain times of year when fishing is really, really tough.

Fall is not necessarily one of them, especially when it comes to smallmouth bass in rivers. In fact, autumn offers some of the best river bass action of the year.

You just have to go where the fish are and give them what they want.

That’s easier than you might think.

In fall, smallmouth bass are looking to pack on the calories. Think of them like white-tailed deer that way. Whitetails feast on acorns in fall to prepare for the coming winter.

Well, smallmouths do the same, using their own foods of choice.

So they go where the living is easiest and most productive. Often, that’s deeper holes than they occupied in summer.

They were generally in the riffles then. Now, look for them – not in the deepest holes, where they’ll winter – but on the edges of that deeper water.

Seek out seams and swirls, too. Seams are places where faster water meets slower water. Swirls are those where water curls back around on itself, perhaps around a boulder or other chunk of structure.

Finally, look for creek mouths. Bass congregate there, too.

And why are fish in such places?

The bass are following baitfish, crayfish and other foods. Find the food – again, like with deer -- and you’ll find the smallmouths.

Then, it’s just a matter of giving them something that looks or acts like what they’re eating.
Jerkbaits can be productive. Cast them upstream and bring them down with the current.

Buzzbaits and spinnerbaits work, too, with or without a trailer.

Don’t overlook tube baits either. Pair them with a jighead – maybe 1/8-ounce, though size depends on water flow and depth – and work them so that they like wounded, vulnerable, struggling bait.

Live bait anglers have success tossing nightcrawlers, minnows and crayfish. Catch them from the same water you’ll be fishing and they’re all the better.

So the fish are there, and they’re aggressive. Go get ‘em.

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