Though many of us are happy catching bass regardless of the species, there are those guys that are simply largemouth fanatics. And that’s cool. I’m down with that. But it’s these guys that insist on targeting largemouth to the bitter end of their season, when in reality, fall and early winter is the one time of year when it’s often worth letting summer memories of jumping largemouths go, and pursue the “other” bass. One thing I’ve learned from competing in tournaments is the value of weighing statistics, and one statistic tournaments bring to light is how certain species dominate during certain seasons. Over time, I’ve learned that spotted bass and smallies are more likely to win a tourney once the temps dip into the low 50’s.
During seasons like spring and summer, tournament anglers are more likely to focus on and win with largemouths, consequently arranging their patterns around them. This is because largemouth love to bite in the warm weather, usually grow bigger on average, and are more predictable. It’s during these times of year that spotted bass and smallmouths are less predictable and, therefore, tend to become “bonus fish.” Smallmouths and spotted bass are roving creatures, making the daily patterns that catch them harder to figure out during the warmer months. They are often difficult to target because they perform disappearing acts like suspending in the middle of the water column, randomly following bait around in deep water, or entirely switching locations due to minor weather changes. In fall and early winter, however, these species often magically show up in places where there were only largemouths a week or two before.
These species become easier to target now because they generally move shallow, group up and relate more to the bottom. All of these factors put greater numbers of these fish in catchable depths and positions, making them susceptible to baits like jigs, cranks, and even umbrella rigs. Over the years, I have experienced many late fall days where my intention to target green ones turned into targeting brown or spotted ones. That’s why even if I’m still hunting largemouths, I’ve got at least one rod ready with an offering for the “other bass.” And perhaps the sweetest bonus of all is that unlike largemouths, spots and smallies are typically very hungry and fat now. So not only are you likely to catch more fish, but your chances of landing a true trophy are much higher.