There are several things I like about the fall, but nothing tops my list more than fishing for big smallmouth in northern Michigan.

The month of October, especially when the water cools down, is the prime time for fishing for big ones. Obviously, we always fish for big ones, but they become more accessible when they are moving shallower and gearing up for the winter.

The bite for numbers of smallmouth can be nothing short of spectacular, but the quality is what makes it so special this time of year.

During the summer, the fish spend their time deep on most lakes where they feed on perch, gobies and other baitfish. The bass move around, capitalizing on the bait that lives deep.

Once the water temp moves into the low 60s, they start moving shallower and by the time it hits the 50s, the shallower rocky areas become smallmouth magnets.

And while they are feeding on available baitfish, crawfish become equally important forage. The cooler weather gets the crawfish more active around rocks and sand grass, and the bass are keying on them.

That’s why I pay close attention to the fish I catch. If they are spitting up crawfish, or their bellies are bulging and hard, that’s a good sign to throw crawfish imitators.

One big difference in lure presentations is you don’t have to work a bait so erratically; you don’t have to burn a spinnerbait or get a crankbait to move wildly. Use a medium retrieve and they will crunch it.

Indeed, finesse presentations work, especially on those calm, sunny days when a wacky rig, tube or drop shot might produce better. But on most days and when there is wind, you can power fish with spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits and swimbaits and not have to pick up a finesse bait.

However, I’ve been really successful on “finesse” days by fishing a jerkbait for smallmouth. I recently had a day like that when it was sunny and calm and I blasted them on a jerkbait.

My clue was when I saw a lot of gulls circling looking for bait. Even though they weren’t diving, that told me the bait was up and that I needed to fish a lure higher in the water column.

The jerkbait was the perfect fit.

You hear a lot of people say that they want sunshine for smallmouth fishing, but I’ve found that the nastiest weather produces the best big smallmouth days. Give me a 15 mph west wind, rain or a mixture of sun and clouds, and I know the fish are biting. Sure, the wind makes it tough for boat control, but it also gets the bass real active.

I realize the smallmouth fishing gets better later for southern anglers, but it happens this month over the entire Great Lakes Region. We can catch smallmouth until the ice covers the lake but now is the magical window when you can fish your favorite technique and be successful.

It’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam’s column appears weekly on You can also find him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.