HomeFeaturesPro Tip with Jonathon VanDam – Five Keys for Catching Fall Smallies by Jonathon VanDam Jonathon VanDam Greets the Fans at the St. Lawrence River – photo courtesy True Image Promotions My fall fishing approach calls for covering as much water as possible. this time of the year, smallmouth bass are really keyed into schools of baitfish and as those schools move the smallmouth follow in hot pursuit. I keep my focus on shallow water areas. I really like to look in seven to eight feet of water at the most, and I really like those that still have some grass left. The backs of bays, shallow shoals and points near deeper water are all key places that I like to look In clear water areas I can visually scan for baitfish and even look for cruising smallies. If I have to look out a little deeper or when the water is a little more stained, I rely on my Humminbird electronics. Side-imaging technology is so amazing, it allows me to scan entire bays quickly to identify the presence of any bait. When I head out in the fall I have five special baits that are sure to catch them once I locate them. These five baits and presentations are my best for putting quality smallies in the boat. 1. Lipless Crankbait Smallies can’t resist a Strike King Strike King Red Eye Shad. I use a fast retrieve with the occasional jerk or twitch of my GLoomis GLX 843 MBR crankbait rod or I’ll speed up the retrieve on my 6.5:1 Shimano Chrnarch to make the bait dart and jump. One change I make is to swap out the stock hooks for Lazer TroKar TK310 Wide Gap trebles. The shorter shank hook allows me to go up one size larger while still keeping it pretty weedless with a compact profile. 2. Square Bill The Strike King KVD 1.5 is a silent (non-rattling) crankbait with the perfect “wandering” action. Like the Red Eye Shad, I use a fast retrieve with the occasional jerk or twitch of the rod. With this bait, I use a little stouter rod, the GLX 855 MBR is my choice, but I use the same Chronarch reel. This retrieve triggers fish that might otherwise just follow the bait all the way to the boat to bite. I also make the same modification to the stock hooks, Lazer Trokar EWGs. 3. Spinnerbait Our Strike King Tour Grade Painted Blade Spinnerbaits come equipped with blades that are painted to match the skirt colors. I find that the fish prefer the painted blades in clear water conditions, the reduced flash is a little more subtle presentation. The skirt is extra long and a high quality trailer hook is included in the package, it comes with everything you need. Chartreuse Sexy Shad and Chartreuse Belly Craw are my go to colors. Jonathon VanDam Shows off a Nice Pair of St. Lawrence River Smallmouth – photo courtesy True Image Promotions 4. Drop Shot When a school of fish quits biting my fast moving baits but I know they’re still around I can usually get a few more bites with by switching up to a dropshot with the Strike King KVD Dream Shot. I like to “Texas” rig these with a Lazer TroKar TK180 Finesse Worm Hook. This does two things for me, it keeps the bait weedless and with this hook the worm stands out straighter from my line. This happens to be the 4” worm I used to secure my 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series victory on Lake Michigan. I throw this rig on a GLoomis NRX 822 DSR and a Shimano 2500 Sustain with 15-pound-test Power Pro Super Slick braid with a leader tied to it. 5. Weightless Soft Plastic Jerkbaits We designed the Strike King Caffeine Shad with a unique tail that gives it amazing action. You can twitch it, make it dart side to side or swim it on a straight retrieve. I like to make it dart around and then when I see a fish following. when I see that, I’ll burn it for a few feet and then kill it. This retrieve triggers strikes. When you first make your cast, let it sink for a couple of seconds before you begin your retrieve. Follow my advice and you’ll be sure to have a great time catching those smallies as they feed up prior to winter.