Tips and Tricks/Fishing Report

Smallmouth Bass Summer To Fall Transition: Upper James River Tips & Tricks. Cranking White and Red

Connor Schroeder - Tails Out Outfitters 

It's late September and in those early mornings you begin to think that fall has finally hit Virginia. These early morning chills are the beginning of the Summer to Fall transition and this can be a huge indicator for you out on the water. This transition can produce BIG BASS! 

What Depth Should I Be Fishing? 

Up here on the upper portion of the James River it is extremely important to pay attention to the depth of the water. The best depths to fish for these transition smallmouth are in your 4ft-3ft range. Look for any long section of the river where the depth is consistent with medium to heavy flow. It is very important to find this flow because of a little something called dissolved oxygen. Smallmouth LOVE dissolved oxygen. Other than dissolved oxygen, a Smallmouth’s best friend is a long rocky bottom. Long stretches of rocky bottom staying in that 3-4ft depth will bring the best results. The more rocks to bounce a bait off of the better!

What Are The Bass Feeding On During This Transition? 

Many anglers love to use the term “Match the Hatch” and this is absolutely correct. During the months of September and early October the key bait fish are in their largest stage. If you want easy bites with not much casting? It's time to break out the cast net and load up on some Rosyface Shiners. In the early mornings from sunrise to around 10am these Rosyface Shiners will be hard to keep in the water, the Smallmouth will eat them up so fast. In the early mornings the shiners school up near the surface and the Smallmouth are keying on these schools. During those early mornings top water baits are a MUST HAVE. Medium sized top water baits walking along the surface at a slow to medium retrieve will bring you more bites. When choosing what color always stay WHITE to imitate those shiners on the surface. 

As the day continues and the sun begins to come up from behind the trees, you will notice a very sudden change in the air temperature. This is when the small mouth will begin to change their feeding habits. As the sun starts to crawl out on top of the water, a prime time bait is beginning to crawl its way out of the rocks. These are the CRAWFISH and you need to use these premium baits to your advantage! The sunlight will bring out the crawfish from their holes and the Smallmouth will direct their attention to picking these little guys off the bottom. When choosing a lure for this situation it is important to remember to stay RED. Using red and orange crawfish imitation crankbaits as the day goes on will bring you the best results. 

What Lures Should I Be Using?

Early Morning: 

  1. Bass Pro Shops® XPS® Slim Dog Hard Bait

The Slim Dog Hard Bait is a PERFECT early morning top water bait for these James River Smallmouth. The size and bright white belly will resemble a Rosyface Shiner that got away from its school. Using the “walk the dog” technique with this bait will key on the bigger smallmouth ambusing larger shiners. 

       2. Strike King HC KVD Splash Popper. (Chrome Blue) 

The Strike King Splash Popper will bring you the exact shape, size and look that you are looking to key in on for these early morning smallmouth. Using this bait with a slow retrieve and using the popping action as an attractant will get any nearby fish fired up. This bait will not weed out the smaller fish but if you are looking to catch all sizes of small mouth this topwater is the perfect early morning bait for you. 

Image result for Strike King HC KVD Splash Popper. (Chrome Blue)

Late Morning And Afternoon:

  1. Bass Pro Shops XPS Square Bill Crankbait(Crawfish Boil)

As the sun starts to push the crawfish further and further out of their holes the Smallmouth will be keying on those mini lobsters. The XPS Square Bill Crankbait is perfect for a rising temperature bite. Ripping this crankbait through 3 and 4 feet of water with heavy rock beds will bring you the best results. Fishing with a crankbait is all about getting those reaction bites and when a Smallmouth sees and feels the vibration of this bait swimming by them like a fleeing crawfish, they will be sure to bite. 

      2. Strike King Red Eye Shad Lipless Crankbait

Using this lipless Crankbait will absolutely bring you results fishing in around 4 ft of water. Launch this bait as far as you can across a long rocky bed or even slow troll a few of these baits behind your jon boat. As this bait moves through the water, the rattling and natural swimming action will resemble a retreating a crawfish or a wounded bait fish. When trolling these baits be sure to troll at slow to medium speeds giving those small mouth some extra time for that reaction bite. 

Image result for strike king red eye shad lipless crankbait