The fall run on the Delaware River begins with the young-of-the-year American shad dropping back from their upriver nursery grounds and attracting the attention of the river’s resident smallmouth bass.
The first big rainfall of autumn brings large Delaware River smallmouth out to play for the first time since the spring. With rising, stained water, fish will move up on the banks to hug current breaks. The first cold snap of the fall inspires the smallies to feed heavily before the winter ice packs start flowing.
In October, Delaware smallmouths stack up in slower, deeper eddies and behind bridge pilings. The downstream side of points also attract smallies. On cooler, sunny days, the bass will be hunkered down deep in the eddies, but after a rain, when the water is stained, the fish will move higher in the water column, to the edge of secondary drop-offs.
During periods of high, stained water after a rain, a spinnerbait or crankbait is a likely bait for getting bites. Once the water subsides and the turbidity lessens, it’s time to give your forearms a workout with jerkbaits. Fishing them on fluorocarbon line—which sinks—will keep them in the strike zone for as long as possible.
Even with the cooling temperatures, don’t be afraid to break out the topwaters in the mornings. A Zoom Super Fluke fished weightless is one of the best shad imitations available.
Later in the fall, as the fish settle into their wintering holes, anchoring up and drifting hair jigs is a proven tactic. When the water temperature is between 38 and 47 degrees, tubes and hair jigs get the majority of the action.