October is a great month for Hocking County area outdoorsmen and women. It's great for archery deer hunters, great for squirrel seekers in lovely weather, great for waterfowl hunters as the seasons come in, and great for smallmouth bass fishing. That latter means really great.
Smallmouth bass fishing is good in spring and summer, but it hits its peak in October. That's because unlike their cousins the largemouth bass which bites all winter, bronzebacks fatten up frantically all fall, then disappear into deep water to nearly hibernate through the cold months.
Large and smallmouth bass might be in the same genus, but they're far different in their living and feeding habits. We all know what largemouths like and where they like to be, but smallmouths are lovers of rocks and that's where they like to be, seeking out their favorite food: crayfish, along with leeches, aquatic insects, and minnows. So, you fish them in rocky areas, shorelines, riprap, reefs, and boulder piles.
Why go to the trouble when largemouths are almost everywhere, and pretty easy to catch? Because they're fighters! When a bronzeback latches onto your hook, you don't need to guess whether its there. They'll rip off line and lots of it, leap high and do so again and again, fight tooth and nail right up to the net. That's long after a largemouth has thrown in the towel and given up. And there are few greater sights than a smallmouth leaping high with the sun painting his bronze color into gold, and his red eyes glistening with anger. That can be addicting.
There's no question that Lake Erie is the states top spot for smallmouths. A couple of years ago, I went perch fishing off Old Woman's Creek using an ordinary perch rig of two snelled No. 6 hooks about six inches apart above a one ounce sinker baited with minnows. I was on a head boat and that morning caught just eight perch, but at the same time landed 10 smallmouths of up to four pounds.
I didn't mind the few perch, and I certainly didn't mind the bass though I returned all but one that was throat hooked. An old timer fishing nearby did, though. He put down his rod to eat a sandwich, and sadly watched the rod fly like a javelin at least 20 feet as a bass took hold.
You can catch bronzebacks all along Lake Erie, but the Bass Islands rank tops, and there's good sport in places like Sandusky Bay especially under onshore boat docks and rocky shore lines. The Ohio River is a close second, and the pools below the various dams have yielded up some whopper bass as have more of those rocky shores. A fair number of inland lakes have bass too, from Pleasant Hill Lake to Alum Creek and in reservoirs like Hoover and the Willard Upground.
Some of my favorite places for bass are rivers and creeks, places where I can wade and toss small lures in solitary splendor most days without seeing another fishermen. Lake Erie tributaries like the Huron, Vermillion, and Grand are very good spots and further south there's the Kokosing (a great little river), Ohio Brush Creek, Great Miami and too many more to be named. Use small spinners, minature crank baits, and little jigs with twistertails, and you should do well. And enjoy a beautiful day in autumn scenery.
Dick Martin is a retired biology teacher who has been writing outdoor columns for over 30 years. You can reach him at email@example.com. Martin writes a weekly column published in The Logan Daily News.