In pursuit of autumn smallmouth

The key is knowing where to look

One of the biggest challenges in fishing is, obviously, finding fish. That’s especially true for smallmouth on big water, and never more so in the fall, when they go deep. So it was yesterday that when editor Patrick Walsh and I hit Lake Simcoe aboard the magazine's Alumacraft Competitor 175 LE, we knew that our summer spots wouldn’t do. 

Fortunately, we know the southern half of the lake fairly well, and as we left the launch at the South Simcoe CY Marina, Walsh had already pinpointed a few spots to investigate using our Navionics charts. The electronic charts are especially useful and better than paper hydrographic maps because you can zoom in to see drop-offs, mid-lake humps, holes and underwater points. When you arrive at a new spot, you can then use the sonar to find transition areas where offshore weeds meet sand and rocky shoals, or whatever habitat or structure you think is going to hold fish.

While theory doesn’t always translate to practice, it’s really rewarding when it does. Things definitely came together yesterday and we managed to find some fish where we thought they'd be—and got them to bite. I caught one chunky smallie using a four-inch soft-plastic gobie imitation on a drop-shot, and two more decent fish on a diving crankbait in about 12 feet of water. Likewise, Walsh picked up three nice fish with a similar dropshot rig. They say a bad day of fishing is better than a good day in the office. When it’s a good day of fishing? Well, you just about never want to go back to sitting at a desk ever again. Fortunately for us, our best work sometimes happens aboard a great boat on a world-class fishery under beautiful, blue fall skies.

Bob with Simcoe smallies

These two smallies fell for my imitation perch crankbait that dove about six to eight feet

Walsh with smallies

Walsh double-fists a pair of smallies he caught using a drop-shot rig in about 12 feet

Sexton with drop-shot smallie

The drop-shot bite was very subtle, but effective. That's me with my biggest fish of the day.