Targeting Fall Smallmouth with Mark Zona

Autumn is fully upon us, and that means one thing — smallmouth bass with big shoulders are on the chew. Bass-fishing celebrity Mark Zona is all about the bronzebacks.

Here are his top three tactics to dial ’em in this fall.

“First, the main thing is to know that you can never, ever fish shallow enough,” Zona says. “Everybody thinks smallmouth are going deeper to winter over, which is true. But for about a 30-day stretch in the fall, they go back to the shallow bed areas they spawned in. I mean, I put my PowerPole down in three feet of water, it’s that shallow. This is when we see the biggest fish of the year, and they are all in feeding mode.”

Going shallow is one facet, but structure also plays a big part.

“Second, and this is critical — find areas where there are intersections of cover,” Zona notes. “Look for where rock meets sand, or sand meets reeds, and so on — anywhere you find that combination of where two covers meet is where they will stage.”

You’ve got shallow water and cover. Now Zona addresses the end game.

“Lastly, do not be scared to upsize your baits and tactics,” Zona adds. “Fall is not about finesse fishing. At this time of year, smallmouth want to eat a meal and not a snack; they want the whole turkey and not just a chicken wing. I go as big and gawdy as I can get. Usually, I throw a big Sexy Dawg or a Thunder Cricket, and work big swimbaits over those cover spots in the shallows.”

“I’m telling you, put all three of these facets together, and you will dial in big fall smallmouth,” Zona says. “I’m actually going out right now to use these exact tactics I just mentioned.”