When river smallies put on the fall feedbag, they’re about as predictable as they’ll ever be. So while water temps remain in the mid 40s this autumn, target sweet spots on wing dams with Storm® Arashi® Vibes and Rapala® Shadow Rap® Deeps to enjoy a harvest festival of fish.
“There’s for sure three spots you want to fish on every wing dam,” says Rapala Pro Seth Feider. “The outside tip; the inside tip, where it meets the bank; and the eddy wash-out hole behind it. A lot of them are going to be tucked behind that wing dam, letting that current roll over top of them, or out on that deep tip.”
A Minnesotan, Feider grew up catching bass on many of the Mississippi River pools south of the Twin Cities. In a September 2016 Bassmaster Elite tournament on pools 6, 7 and 8 near LaCrosse, Wis., he placed 2nd in a field of more than 100 of the world’s best anglers. He was fishing main-river structure that few others were targeting.
“A lot of fish will winter on main-river stuff – wing dams, deep banks, outside bends, wash-out holes,” Feider says. “That’s the kind of stuff I’m going to fish on the main river in the fall.”
When fall water temps are in the higher 40s, the wing dams get much of Feider’s attention. His go-to baits on them are the Arashi Vibe, a lipless crankbait, and the Shadow Rap Deep, a jerkbait.
Featuring a soft-knock rattle, Vibes emit a unique single-cadence, low-pitch sound that attracts attention without alarming tentative fish. They also fall slower than do many other lipless crankbaits.
Combining a horizontal struggle with a vertical fade, Shadow Rap jerkbaits perfectly mimic an injured minnow’s last moments. Featuring a metallic style body finish with textured scales, the Shadow Rap Deep targets fish in four to eight feet. Unlike a host of similar-looking jerkbaits, Shadow Raps neither rise slightly on the pause, nor strictly suspend in space. Not only will they dart side to side, they will spin around almost 180 degrees with the right action applied.
With both the Vibe and the Shadow Rap Deep, boat position is key to ensure the best casting and retrieve angles when targeting a wing dam’s sweet spots.
“With the Vibe, I’ll hold downstream, cast upstream, and then yo-yo my bait up and down all the way back,” Feider explains. “That’s a really, really good way to get bit.”
To “yo-yo” his Vibe on the retrieve, Feider repeatedly pops it up and then quickly drops his rod tip to allow the bait to free fall on a slack line. The correct technique isn’t overly aggressive, but does require more than minimal wrist action – put a little forearm in it.
“I’m not ripping it up real hard – maybe only pulling it a foot up off the bottom – but I definitely want to get that bait vibrating before I let it fall back down on semi-slack line,” Feider explains. “When it falls with that controlled slack, you’ll get some pretty vicious bites on it.”
Arashi Vibes measure 2 3/4 inches and weigh 9/16th of an ounce. They come in 14 color patterns: Hot Blue Shad, Bluegill, Blue Back Herring, Wakasagi Ghost Hitch, Green Gill, Rusty Craw, Mossy Chartreuse Craw, Red Craw, Black Silver Shad, Green Gold Shad, Copper Green Shad, Pro Blue Shad and Dirty Shad.
This time of year, Feider will yo-yo Vibes also on main-river flats with sand bottoms. Both there and on wing dams, his favorite fall color patterns are Pro Blue Shad and Black Silver Shad. He throws Vibes on 15-pound-test Sufix 100% Fluorocarbon line, with a 7-foot medium-heavy fiberglass rod.
“With a fiberglass rod, I feel like I can get a better feel for my bait, which has got so much vibration,” he says. “And I’m fishing it more up and down, where it’s key to keep a really good feel on it.”
Shadow Rap® Deep
When autumn water temps fall into the low 40s, “the fish get real finicky, slow and lethargic,” Feider says. Once that happens, he’ll throw a Shadow Rap Deep more. A favorite tactic uses boat position and downstream current to give fish on sweet spots multiple looks at his bait on a single, precision cast.
First, he uses his electric trolling motor to virtually anchor upstream of the wing dam he’s targeting. He casts downstream at it, just past the sweet spot, then gives his Shadow Rap Deep a few jerks, reels and pauses, until its past the strike zone. At that point, he lets out a little line, allowing the current to carry his bait downriver past the sweet spot, and then repeats the preceding process.
“You can jerk it forward and let it drift back a couple feet several times in a row and keep it in the strike-zone a long time,” Feider explains. “You’re moving it, but you’re kind of dead-sticking it too, because your bait will stay in the same spot a while. I’ve had good luck throwing that jerkbait like that at really specific sweet spots.”
Every wing dam has a sweet spot. Where it will be on any given day depends on water temp, current speed, water clarity and other factors. “Sometimes it’s out on the tip, way out on the end, some times of year, it’s right next to shore,” Feider explains.
“And on some of them, there’s almost little breaks on top – a two-, three-foot gap where it’s blown out – and that could be anywhere up or down it,” he continues. “You can usually see them on the surface, due to current disturbance – you can see a little different current seam there. Instead of going straight over, there’s a spot where it kind of funnels together.”
In the fall, Feider throws Shadow Shad Deeps on 10-pound-test Sufix® Castable Invisiline™ 100% Fluorocarbon with a 6-foot, 9-inch medium-light graphite rod. His favorite fall color pattern is Albino Shiner.
No Wing Dams? No problem
No wing dams on your favorite smallmouth river? No problem. Arashi Vibes and Shadow Rap Deeps will work for you this fall too.
“Target areas with deeper water and a little less current,” Feider advises. “Find a wide spot in the river with a hole in it, or some kind of depression in the bottom, and those fish can really get stacked up in there.”
Remember that in smaller rivers, “deep” is a relative term. “On rivers like that, a lot of the water’s like five feet or less, so in some places a six-foot hole might be a really deep spot,” Feider says.