Fall finds jumbo smallmouth gorging on hefty meals, and Gustafson is happy to spoon-feed them — literally. The Elite angler from Keewatin, Canada, knows a big chunk of shiny metal offers his best bet for nabbing a brown bomber.
“I like a 5-inch, 1 1/8-ounce Lake Fork Flutter Spoon; that’s been my go-to in the fall,” Gustafson said. “This time of year, the fish get keyed on eating big baits, and up north, that could be shad, smelt or herring.
“A lot of the bait is suspended, so the bass follow them, but they’re going to be close to some type of structure, like a hump or a point. The fish will drift off the structure sometimes to chase a bait, and the spoon is good because it falls erratically and it has a lot of flash. It’s something you can use to attract a fish that’s hunting with its eyes.”
Gustafson said short, measured casts are best. No need for a heaving missile launch — in fact, that’s actually counterproductive.
“You don’t want to long bomb these things; a fast cast is best,” he said. “That way you have a vertical angle on the bait when it gets down there. You get better hook sets, and the spoon has the vertical action that we want.”
Gustafson throws his spoon on a 7-6 heavy G.Loomis rod with a Shimano Metanium 7:1 reel. Spooling with 20-pound fluoro allows him the strength he needs for slinging a big bait.
“I’ll pitch it out, keep my eye on the line, and when the spoon hits the bottom, I’m going to lift it 3 to 4 feet with pretty sharp rips and let it flutter back to the bottom,” Gustafson said. “I’ll just continue that all the way back to the boat.
“You really want to pay attention to your line; you’ll see your line jump when they bite it sometimes when it’s falling. But often, when you go to rip it back up, you’re setting the hook into one.”
Treble hooks and smallmouth are a constant recipe for heartbreak, but Gustafson said he usually expects a solid connection, as these voracious fall fish really “get” the bait. That being said, he’ll use the smallmouth’s tendencies to his advantage.
“Those fish are going to come up and jump close to the boat, so you should be prepared to boat flip them,” Gustafson said. “You definitely don’t want to baby them, because if they have a lot of time to play around with it, the spoon is an easy bait for them to throw.”
BAIT: Lake Fork Flutter Spoon
WHY: Big lure to mimic big forage
WHERE: Humps or points where bait is suspended