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My fall is my favorite time of the year to fish for big river smallmouth. While outdoorsman are focused on hunting season, the fall is an absolute smash feast on the river. Smallmouth are feeding heavily as the winter months approach. They want food and lots of it to help get them through the long cold days of winter.

This is the time of year to catch numbers and giants. These river smallies are aggressive and will feed all day long. This time of year the fish key in on baitfish more so than crawfish. They want a big meal and they want it often. Leave your spinning rods and finesse baits at home, you won’t need them. I throw nothing but baitfish imitation type lures. Spinnerbait is my favorite go-to but chatterbaits, big swimbaits both soft plastic and hard body, and big topwaters are the staples of my arsenal to get the big bites. Some people might think a big swimbait like a Bull Shad is too big for smallmouth but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Up on my home river, the Susquehanna, we throw 5 and even as big as 6 inch Bull Shads. The smallmouth absolutely crush it.

When it comes to locations to target these fish the river water levels dictates everything. In typical low clear water conditions I’m looking for shallow gravel flats and gravel bars. The fish will school up in “wolf packs” to ambush forage in the shallows. Ledges can also be very productive. The bigger fish will sit on the front side of the ledge in the push water and just wait for forage to be pushed to them by the current. They will also stage on the top side of grass islands for the same reason. When the water is up I’m looking for any structure or cover that creates a current seam off the shore or next to an island. These fish are feeding aggressively so they’ll generally be at the very top of the current seam tucked up against the obstruction.

Take advantage of the fall feeding frenzy. It’s some of the most productive fishing times of the year and certainly the most fun. The big girls are aggressive so you can power fish all day and cover lots of water. Enjoy it before Mother Nature takes over for winter.