Getting to travel all over North America to fish for bass over the past several years has been a blessing because it’s fun to go to many of the most historic bodies of water in tournament bass fishing. We hit some of these lakes at the right time and the fishing is phenomenal, but we also hit some of them at off times and it can be super tough.
The one thing that it has taught me though is how good we have it in central Canada when it comes to bass fishing. 100 fish days, big fish and some great tournaments during our short summer make it a great place to live and fish if you like to catch bass. Fall can get depressing because we all know that we have six months of snow and ice coming down the pipe. We also get a couple of months of some of the best fishing of the year so better get out there and take advantage of it!
BAIT OF THE YEAR
My “bait of the year” for 2018 was a Chatterbait. Back in February of last year I finished second in an FLW Tour event down at the Harris Chain in Florida. I caught nearly all of my fish on a ½ oz. Jack Hammer, a high-end version of the bait, made by Z-Man.
For someone like me who lives for competing in bass tournaments, living in Northwest Ontario is great. We have tournaments going on every weekend in September around Lake of the Woods, Shoal Lake and Rainy Lake Last year was kind of the coming out party for me with a Chatterbait. It put fish in the boat in several events and some good ones.
Though they have been around for many years, Chatterbaits have not been a widely used bait in the past in this area.
VERSATILITY IS THE KEY!
The thing that I like most about them is that they are so versatile.
- They go through the weeds about as good as a spinnerbait yet can be fished more effectively in slightly deeper water.
- Go through weeds much better than a crankbait and hook fish better in my opinion.
- Excellent lure choice for finding bass in the fall, particularly largemouths when they get on those shorelines coming out of the shallow bays where they spend the summer.
- The best stretches have rock and weeds mixed together so you can cover them very efficiently with a Chatterbait. I like to cast the bait out, let it sink a few feet down and then retrieve it just fast enough that I can feel the blade vibrating. If you hit some weed, a boulder or some wood, give it a little pop and that will often trigger fish to bite.
I like to throw a chatterbait on 20 pound fluorocarbon, there is no need for finesse and I throw it on a 7’5” G. Loomis NRX rod (893), and a Shimano Curado 70 reel with a 7.2:1 gear ratio. You want a medium heavy action rod to be able to set the hook good and muscle fish a little bit around weeds if you have to. I like the longer rod for making long casts as well.
Z-MAN TOP QUALITY
Z-Man makes the best Chatterbaits available. You should try a couple the next time you hit the tackle store. When it comes to choosing colours, I like green pumpkin or white shades for the most part and use a variety of trailers on them depending on how deep I want the bait to go.
NEKO RIG SHOULD BE IN YOUR ARSENAL
For many years the tried and true technique for catching smallmouths in the fall is to mark them on your electronics and then get on top of them with fluke-style minnow baits rigged on a jig head. While this is still a top technique for catching fall smallmouths a technique that I have been using the past couple years is the Neko rig, which involves using a Senko-type worm or a finesse worm, wacky-rigged with a nail weight in one end of it.
I learned about this technique fishing down south for spotted bass, but I have had success with it for smallmouths in our part of the world as well. I have two baits that I typically use – a Northland Impulse Dipstick in green pumpkin and a Jackall Neko Flick Worm, which is a slightly thinner, more subtle bait. My favourite colour in the Neko Flick is Prism Shad and I like the 4.8” size for smallmouths.
The setup for Neko rigging is to use a rubber band to hold the hook vertically on the worm and give it some lifespan because it won’t rip off as easily. I put a nail weight, usually a 1/16 oz, in the end of the worm below the hook. My favourite hook is a fly-tying hook made by Gamakatsu called a B10 Stinger. They are inexpensive and are sharp, strong hooks. I like size #2 for the Dipstick and #4 for the Neko Flick.
I cast this rig around while searching for fish but where it really shines is when I see fish on my electronics, I drop it down and let it fall straight to the bottom where I shake it along. Most of the time, smallmouths will follow the worm to the bottom and eat it. I think part of the effectiveness of this rig comes from the fact that it is a relatively new way to present the bait to the fish. I plan to try this with minnow style baits this fall as well.
MATCH UP YOUR EQUIPMENT
I like to use a seven foot plus medium action spinning rod for this technique. I use the 7’5” G. Loomis IMX Pro (892S), a Shimano Stradic CI4 2500 reel and 8 lb. yellow Power Pro. The yellow line is key for this technique because you will get a lot of bites as the worm is sinking and with this line you will be able to see bites much more easily than you can with other line colours. You also know when you worm hits the bottom as well. I always check to make sure a fish doesn’t have it whenever my line stops sinking and you would be surprised how many times you will be pleasantly surprised.
Of course, there are plenty of other techniques to catch bass this fall – using large flutter spoons, casting umbrella rigs, and swimming large bucktail jigs for smallmouths. They know that a long winter is just around the corner so as water temperatures start to cool, these fish are ready to eat and bulk up as much as they can before winter. Eating large baitfish like cisco and smelt is the main focus of these fish in September and October so keep that in mind but having finesse techniques like the Neko rig ready will help put more fish in the boat.