I arrived at the mighty Mississippi before the sun was rising in the sky and as I sat sipping my coffee, I slowly put my boat down to my first stop as everything just felt right. It’s October and most people have put their boats away and are in hunting mode, not me.
The river was as calm as I’ve have ever seen it and I had a grudge with this body of water. My fishing partner and I could
both see fish busting all around us so, we focused on baits that stayed higher in the water column and fished in the moment.
Water temperature started at 53 degrees in the morning and by the time we left, the water temperature had risen to 55 degrees in a couple of key spots. With over a dozen different rods in the boat, my fishing partner and I started by cranking shallow or throwing a ¼ oz. swim bait shallow.
These baits paired with short medium action rods make for a perfect combo when fighting smallmouth that like to jump. Smallmouth from the river really put up a fight, so when you set the hook, be ready for a battle.
We fished areas that had produced in the past and we also stumbled upon new areas that get hot at specific times of the year. After a few hours of fishing, we were holding off of the cover quite a ways as we had already put a handful of small fish in the boat by now, so we focused on areas that had a flat 5-7 feet leading up to a bank.
Staying a good ways away from the shoreline, we would make long casts to the shoreline and work the bait a long ways back. As the day went on, we found fish had specifically gained a liking for the rocky banks and once we found one fish, we could often pick 4-6 fish out of that one small area that was the size of a car or smaller.
After fishing for a couple of hours, we also noticed that the fish liked the shad colors or also a very bright color. The water had a very dark tint to it leading myself to believe, that the fish could use some color to help them find the bait or matching the hatch was working great in this situation.
We found that multiple casts to one target would sometimes pay dividends. Sometimes the big fish would bite right away and other times, we needed to work through the area of small fish to getting a bigger bite. We would hit the school with a square bill or rattle trap and once that bite shut off, a drop shot would pick one up or a shaky head with a creature bait in green pumpkin.
As the sun moved across the sky, the wind picked up with a slight breeze out of the east and the clouds thickened. At this point the fish really started to hold tighter to cover or the bottom. Hitting the cover or bottom with the bait began to be critical to getting these bites.
This is also when the largemouth began to bite, however the big ones stayed hidden today. Fish stayed in less than 6 feet of water but specifically on cover. The cover we hit (wood docks and rocks) could have been holding more heat that was attracting those bass. We could fish one spot and let it rest for an hour or so and come back to it and pick up a couple more fish.
In river systems, fish move a ton and I believe fish replenish spots very quickly after getting moved. As the day progressed, we would end up putting more than 50 fish in the boat and even getting in some walleye using these same tactics.
The Mississippi River has a very abundant fish population all the way from Lacrosse WI to St. Cloud MN. If you are on the river this fall, make sure to hit the shallow water and pay attention to the small details, they often make the biggest differences.