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Now before you start thinking I’m a Brad Pitt fan, I’m not. It just so happens that I was thinking about what lures I use to try to entice slow-to-bite or lethargic smallies in cold autumn water. Well when I was researching a little, I found lots of videos that people put on Youtube about all the different lures that “supposedly” are sure bets.
So I come up with a short list of pretty inexpensive lures that I have been using to catch smallies in the pretty tough conditions I have encountered up here in Pennsylvania. Coincidently many of them are subtle or finesse type lures that are picked up and carried away gently by feeding bass, on the fall.

Ok, so let’s just start with the Ned Rig. Yes, it is well known to many but I felt I had to include it because I find myself encountering a lot of people that have still not heard of this incredibly productive yet simple lure. I think, sometimes we take it for granted just how different anglers can be in terms of skill or experience. On more than a few occasions I have found myself showing people, often at boat launches, video or pictures of what a Ned Rig is or how it is set up. Often they are bank stompers that are thinking about buying a kayak or in the process of saving up for one.
Now let me say this, if you are reading this and you are a veteran Ned Rig user, you may find this hard to believe, but its true. You are probably thinking, hey man, don’t give all the secrets out, well I’m not, they’re already out. Even if they weren’t, so what, I want more people to catch fish, we have to be good stewards of the sport. I have learned so much from people like Mike Reinhold, the tournament coordinator of the Central PA Kayak Anglers. This man is arguably one of the best anglers I know. What is most impressive about this guy, aside from his Yoda-like fish catching ability, is how generous he is when sharing tips, advice and many times, even lures to help others catch fish. Ok, so back to the Ned Rig. I use the Finesse TRD primarily in California Craw, Canada Craw and The Deal. I rig them in the z-man jig heads in 1/10 oz. but only when I can’t get a more weedless option because these things snag really easy. I work them slow on the bottom and hop them over boulders and submerged wood. The bite often comes when the lure is falling off of these things.

Another lure I use is the Zoom, Mag II Ribbon Tail Worm in the Junebug color. It has been very productive for me, particularly in stained water. Now I use this predominantly when I go lake fishing for Largemouth bass. I rig it on a 4/0 hook, with a 1/8 oz. bullet weight in Texas and Carolina style. The Texas rig method with the bullet weight pegged tight to the eye of the hook keeps the worm right on the bottom so I can slow drag it. I have caught fish swimming it through submerged grass but its more effective when I slow drag or hop it off of the bottom. When I rig it Carolina, I employ way less action because the thin ribbon tail does most of the work on its own. If you can’t find it in Junebug color, don’t’ panic, black works pretty well too. Work it over rocks and hold on.

Now I’ve mentioned Z-man products enough times to make you wonder if I have some kind of endorsement deal. Well I don’t, it just turns out that I use some of their products because they catch me fish. As it turns out, I have challenged myself to get better at catching fish, smallmouth bass in particular, with chatterbaits. The Z-man original, with a blacked-out blade and black and blue skirt have done well for me. I have grown to love throwing this lure, along with the Booyah Melee in the 3/8 oz. weight. Now the Booyah I use is more of a bluegill pattern, but weight and vibration are pretty similar. To be honest I have to give credit for this presentation to a buddy, J. Harshman, because his confidence in this lure was infectious. One day while fishing the Susquehanna river in high muddy conditions, he taught me how to work the chatterbait magic, resulting in 19” and 20” smallies almost back-to-back. Nothing too complicated here folks, just yo-yo it off the bottom. Occasionally switch this up with a slow steady retrieve and trust me, when they hit it, you’ll know it. Reel the slack out of the line and keep a steady bend in the rod, many times the fish will hook themselves.

Note: I use a medium heavy, fast action rod with 14 lb. monofilament line for this presentation. Also one advantage with fishing out of my trusty Jackson Coosa HD while using this lure is that I can get about 90% of my snags out. It may take some extra paddling or pedaling but chances are good you’ll work your lure free. Reels can be a matter of personal preference but I use a moderate speed baitcaster and reel just fast enough to keep that bass pegged, this is where rod selection becomes important. A good, stout rod avoids a lot of heartaches.

The last lure I will talk about is the blade baits. Some people call them silver buddies. But I have found that since the original, many companies have improved on the design and have come out with different colors for the changes in water clarity. I personally like the steel shad versions because of the shiny finish. I feel this will reflect more light than the original silver buddy versions. I’ve also watched numerous videos that emphasize the importance of modifying these lures with split rings on the hook to minimize a fish’s ability to twist free of a treble hook pegged against the blade itself. I’ll be the first to say that as of the time I wrote this, I have limited experience with blade baits for catching bass. Most of my success with this lure in cold water comes from catching northern pike in Quebec, Canada. Maybe someone that reads this article will respond or comment about how good it is for smallies. I will however be trying them in a few short hours and posting the results on Facebook. It’s a leap of faith I know, but hey, it’s no guts no glory, right.
This short article was not designed to be an all-encompassing list of all the great lures that are available for catching fish in the fall. I realize that some people may even consider it incomplete, but it does reflect what I have been using in the cold waters of the northeast effectively.

– Tony Heredia