5 Fall Destinations for Trophy Smallmouth

The bass are biting at these great autumn destinations.  

By Trent Jonas

5 Fall Destinations for Trophy Smallmouth
Photograph Courtesy of Chautauqua Reel Outdoors

When air and water temperatures drop and the leaves change color, smallmouth bass start feeding voraciously, bulking up for the long winter that lays ahead. In the shorter periods of daylight, smallmouth congregate into pods and cruise structure and drop-offs as they hunt for baitfish. Anglers who know where to go and what to toss at these fall fatties are likely to land a lunker or two. Here are some of our favorite destinations for laying into late-season smallmouth.

Chautauqua County, NY

When you’re chasing down late-season smallmouth, there are few destinations better than Chautauqua County, New York. Chautauqua Lake is Bassmaster Magazine’s number 23 bass lake, and the county has plenty of shoreline along Lake Erie, which is the magazine’s number three bass lake in the United States—and the two lakes are only a few miles from one another.

Stop by Westfield Bait and Tackle, which is located between the northern tip of Chautauqua Lake and the southeast shore of Lake Erie, for bait, gear, and some local knowledge. They also offer fishing charters on both lakes. Chautauqua Reel Outdoors provides excellent guiding services for bass, as well as other species, on the lakes.

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Mille Lacs Lake, MN

The funny thing about Mille Lacs Lake is that it was long known as one of Minnesota’s premier walleye hotspots and a place to hook monster muskies. But, due to a crash in the walleye population, the DNR severely curtailed walleye seasons on the lake. What anglers discovered, though, was that while they were concentrating so much energy on landing walleyes, the smallmouth population flourished and got fat. And suddenly, Mille Lacs Lake gained renown as one of the country’s top bronzeback fisheries.

Chapman’s Mille Lacs Lake Resort is a great place to set up basecamp—they will also rent you a boat if you need one. For guiding services, consider Mike Riedl of On a Mission Fishin’, who specializes in guiding for smallmouth.

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Lake St. Clair, MI

Lake St. Clair, the country’s eighth largest lake, has long been known as one of the all-around best freshwater fisheries in North America. And one of the lake’s premier species, drawing anglers from all over the world, is smallmouth bass. With Detroit dominating its western shore, that part of the lake is pretty urban and sees more fishing pressure than other areas. But don’t let that fool you: Late-season smallmouths can be found just about anywhere in Lake St. Clair.

Having said that, it’s a big lake and knowing a little about its structure and patterns of the fish and how they move can help a lot. That’s where a guide service like Spencer’s Angling Adventures, based in Harrison Township, Michigan, can come in awfully handy. Stay right on the water at the Lakeview Motel, which is located near New Baltimore, just a few miles up the shore from Harrison Township.

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Pickwick Lake, Alabama/Tennessee

Pickwick Lake is an impoundment of the Tennessee River that stretches from south-central Tennessee, across a corner of Mississippi, and into Alabama. Some of the biggest smallmouth bass ever caught have been pulled from Pickwick—and the lake consistently continues to produce trophy-sized bronzebacks. 

Pickwick Landing State Park, near Savannah, Tennessee, has a marina, as well as lodging in the form of camping, cabins and even an Inn with a restaurant. If you’re looking for a little help from an area pro, Carl Boaz guides exclusively for trophy—five pounds and over—smallmouth bass.

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Chequamegon Bay, WI

One of the biggest bays on the world’s largest lake holds a treasure: A booming population of golden smallmouths. And October is considered “trophy month” for Chequamegon Bay smallmouth bass. Located on Lake Superior, along northern Wisconsin’s Bayfield Peninsula, the bay is becoming known as one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the nation, but, because of its location and size, has relatively-little fishing pressure. This means more monsters for the anglers who make the late-season trip.

Anglers All is a guiding service out of Ashland, Wisconsin, that specializes in light tackle and fly fishing for smallmouth bass, and they will certainly put you on the fish. For lodging in a place with like-minded folks, stay at the River Rock Inn and Bait Shop where you can get the gear and tackle you need, along with some local advice on where the bite is.

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