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Kevin VanDam on Fishing for Fall and Winter Smallmouths

Fifty-year-old Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has won four Bassmaster Classics as well as other Bassmaster tournaments totaling $6,434,476. A recent inductee into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, VanDam enjoys fishing for smallmouths and tells us how to be successful fishing for them. 

Kevin VanDam smallmouth bass

If you’re fishing for smallmouths, especially in the South, you must realize that smallmouths are much more aggressive in cool water than they are in warm water. My favorite bait for smallmouths is a deep-diving Strike King suspend lure. In southern reservoirs (any reservoir that doesn’t freeze in the fall and/or the winter) the smallmouths generally focus on feeding on shad.
Shad will die-off in the fall and winter, and that’s when you’ll see numbers of seagulls and other birds flying around, as well as great blue herons and eagles, feeding on those shad that are dying off. The smallmouths will be suspended in the water column and also will be feeding on those shad.  

To catch smallmouths in the fall and winter, I like to fish bright-colored lures like white and chartreuse that are very visible to bass from a long distance away. I focus my fishing for smallmouths on main lake points, bluff ends, bridges and riprap around bridges. The smallmouths will want close access to the main river channel and any other kind of deep-water access. Smallmouths also like transitional areas where there may be a flat or a pocket on the edge of the main river channel. Or, that transitional area may intersect with a bluff. Smallmouths prefer to concentrate on vertical drop-offs and points.

To get these smallmouths to bite, fish that jerkbait as slowly as you can. Keep that jerkbait right on the edge of the underwater breaklines. When I’m fishing a jerkbait, I like to use 10-pound-test fluorocarbon line, because that size line will enable the jerkbait to get down to 10-12 feet deep. Some anglers like to fish a jerkbait on spinning tackle, but I prefer to fish with a bait-casting rod and reel. 

The smallmouth bass is found in clearer water than the largemouth, especially streams, rivers, and the rocky areas and stumps and also sandy bottoms of lakes and reservoirs. The smallmouth prefers cooler water temperatures than its cousin the largemouth bass, and may be found in both still and running water.

Watch Capture Productions Elements episode on fishing for smallmouth bass.

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