Tony McCalmant North Idaho Smallmouth 03

3 min to read

Northern Idaho Smallmouth Bass in November


By Tony McCalmant

The water temperature and levels are dropping, the fish are gathering around the table

As winter closes in and surface temperatures plummet, big Northern Idaho Smallmouth gather around the “table” and pack on the weight like most of us on Thanksgiving Day. For a select group of diehard Bronze Back Enthusiasts, this is the most anticipated time of year. The water levels are dropping, the fish are congregating, and most everyone else has traded in their bass rods for their deer rifles. For those willing to bundle up and brave the cold, it can be some of the best fishing of the year. If you’re one of the previously mentioned “those”, here are some techniques and equipment I use to put these early winter fish in the boat.

Most of my fishing this time of year is concentrated on larger bodies of water that are well known for producing a large number of quality size bass, such as Lake Coeur d’Alene and Lake Pend Oreille. The same pattern holds true on both (as well as other similar impoundments in the Northwest). The key is that both lakes are lowered to “winter pool” after Labor Day forcing fish out of the bays and off of shallow weed lines, toward the deeper structure where they will spend the winter. I use my Lowrance and Navionics mapping to search out main lake flats and humps with depths between 10 and 30 feet. These areas can be a point, on a straight shoreline or in the middle of nowhere. It doesn’t matter which, as long as it is adjacent to deep water. Once I’ve located a promising flat, I like to cover the area using my 3D Structure Scan to locate any “standout” features, like rock piles or deep weed beds. Even depressions, or the ledge where the flat breaks into deep water, can be the target here. I look for water temps to be nearing or below 50 degrees.

While there are always exceptions to every rule, I like to keep it simple. The following is a list of the most productive baits I use during this time of year. However, I do stray from these on occasion.

  1. Swim Bait- Keitech Fat Swing Impact- 3.8” or 4.8”.
    I rig both on a Dirty Jigs Matt Allen jig head in either a ½ oz or ¾ oz. My favorite colors are either a Pro Blue Red Pearl or Perch. Pick matching jig head colors. The swimbait is the perfect bait to cover water with, but on many occasions, it’s the only rod on my deck. My motto is, why slow down if you don’t need to? For best results, make long casts, let the bait fall to the bottom (on a slack line) and retrieve slow and steady, keeping the bait as close to the bottom as you can throughout the entire retrieve. Give the bait an occasional “snap” and let fall back to the bottom. This can often trigger bites from fish trailing behind.
    (TIP: To get more life out of your bait, super glue the nose of the bait to the jig head)
  2. Tube- 3.5” Strike King Coffee Tube- Green Pumpkin/Black Flake.
    If the bass are there but are not eating the “swimmer”, I will immediately pick up a tube bait. I will either snap the tube off the bottom to induce a reaction bite or I’ll drag is slowly. This is dictated by the fish and can change from day to day (sometimes by the hour). For the tube jig head, I always use the lightest weight I can get away with. This will keep the bait from getting snagged in the rock as often as a heavier head would. I prefer a 3/16 oz to start. If wind or current comes into play, I will go up to 5/16 oz or even 3/8 oz if needed. Just remember…lighter is better
  3. Drop Shot- Robo Worm’s 4.5” Straight Tail (Prizm Perch) – or- K5 Custom Baits “Fat Mini (Purple Core)
    I always keep my drop shot at the ready while cruising across an area with a swimbait. I want to be able to drop on any arches I see on my Lowrance as I pass over fish lying on the bottom. For the weight, the same principle for my tube baits applies here.

Swim Bait – ALX Rods EXPERT Series Ben Parker “Hair Jig” Rod (7’6” MedHvy) – Abu Garcia REVO SX – 15# P Line 100% Fluorocarbon.
Tube – ALX Rods ZOLO Series “Maestro” (7’ MedLt+ ) – Abu Garcia REVO SX20 (Spinning) – 14# Berkley Fireline Crystal- 10# P Line 100% Fluorocarbon Leader
Drop Shot – ALX Rods ZOLO Series “Trickster” (7’ Light+ ) – Abu Garcia REVO SX10 (Spinning) – 12# Berkley Fireline Crystal- 8# P Line 100% Fluorocarbon Leader

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