UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

Hunting Big Bronze in Wisconsin

Hunting Big Bronze in Wisconsin
Matt Stefan

Matt Stefan has high standards for fall smallmouth fishing.

“On a normal day, if the best five aren’t over 25 pounds, it isn’t a good day,” he says. “My best days with a buddy have been where the best five have gone 29 to 32 pounds. We get lots of 6-pounders a year, and we’ve caught some right at the 7-pound mark. I’ve had a few on that we haven’t landed that were bigger.”

Stefan is talking about giant Wisconsin smallmouths, but he’s not hitting up Chequamegon Bay or Sturgeon Bay to do it. He’s fishing within an hour or so of his Junction City home in central Wisconsin.

 

Matt Stefan

Finding Big-Fish Lakes

Big smallmouths are pretty much a given on the Great Lakes these days, but it takes a little scouting for inland Wisconsin. For Stefan, it starts with research on the forage and blossoms from there.

“You’re looking for oily fish: alewives, whitefish, ciscoes,” says Stefan. “And those fish live in the deeper, clear-water lakes. It seems like the more deep water, the better, in terms of bass size. I’m looking for the biggest fish around. For whatever reason, the deeper the lake, the bigger the fish. Deeper lakes usually have fewer weeds and are more oligotrophic-style lakes [lakes lacking in nutrients and vegetation], and from a fishing standpoint I prefer those barren lakes.”

 

Matt Stefan

Locating Bass

Once Stefan identifies a good lake the fishing is simple enough. It requires patience and a willingness to brave cold weather as the season progresses. He likes to target the biggest smallmouths when they’re basically in their wintering spots. That’s usually when the water temperature is in the 40s and the air temperature registers about the same.

“I’m usually looking at the deepest water that comes up to a point or a hump, and the wintering fish will set up on a deep flat spot on that area,” Stefan says. “More than anything, the water color dictates the depth where they’ll winter. In darker water the deep fish will be in about 20 or 30 feet. But in clearer lakes you can catch them down to about 50 or 55 feet of water.”

Finding the best spots in the lake is a process, and though map study helps, you need to do some fishing and looking too.

“You can find fish on just a break, but this time of year you definitely want a harder bottom. I very rarely catch fish on just a sand break. But, I also don’t want big boulders. It seems like they want gravel with some baseball- or basketball-sized rock mixed in.”

Stefan says he’s caught plenty of fish that come up with particles from the bottom on their stomachs – evidence of how tightly they snug down to the lake floor.

One plus of late-fall smallmouths on inland lakes is that the gains you make one year can translate well to the next.

“When you find a good spot you usually catch multiple fish, and you can go back every year,” says Stefan. “I’ve put in a lot of grueling hours doing this, and you can go back to these places year to year and it’s worth it. If you find one or two spots every time you go to a lake, you might get 10 spots on a lake in a few years. Then you can rotate those spots and have enough to make a trip really worthwhile.”

 

Matt Stefan

The Technique

Fishing deep with light line is Stefan’s basic approach for big fall smallmouths.

“I really like to keep bottom contact,” he says. “Generally, I like to use the lightest weight possible for two reasons: It makes you fish slow, and, because the fish are less aggressive, it’s easier for them to suck in a light bait.”

The search starts with heavier baits, though. Stefan might toss a blade bait or an umbrella rig, and then slow down once he really dials in. Then his mainstay is a single 2.8- or 3.3-inch Berkley PowerBait Power Swimmer or Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimbait on a 3/16- or 1/4-ounce Dirty Jigs Guppy Head. An alternative is a small casting jig or drop-shot with a little swimbait or soft-plastic leech.

Fishing deep with light baits takes time to learn and adapt to, but it can pay off. Once you catch one, you can usually catch a lot more. But you have to play it right.

“In my opinion it’s more crucial this time of year to know what your lines [casting angles] are,” Stefan says. “If you get bit and you can make the cast again, chances are good you’re going to hit another on the top of the head.”

For his swimbaits, Stefan uses an MHX HM-MB873 casting rod, 8- or 10-pound-test fluorocarbon, and a lot of patience. In windier weather, he’ll occasionally upsize to a heavier head or swap to a spinning rod with lighter line, but both of those scenarios aren’t ideal.

Fishing deep and slow like Stefan does isn’t super easy, and you need to pick good weather days if you can, but when it all comes together the ceiling is about as high as it gets in fishing.

Tags: jody-white  tips-and-techniques 

Fish Northern Rivers for Smallmouth

Fish Northern Rivers for Smallmouth

From the Mississippi River to the Peshtigo River, Wisconsin and the surrounding region has miles of flowing water chock full of smallmouth bass. In the recent Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota, Matt Stefan targeted rivers flowing into Green Bay for the majority of his catch, and in doing so, he was able to tap into a skillset that he’s groomed for years on the Wisconsin River and other flowages near him. READ MORE »

Top Patterns and Baits from the Detroit River

Top Patterns and Baits from the Detroit River

With the whole field boxed into the Detroit River for the first two days of the final Toyota Series Northern Division event, it’s natural that the main player was the river itself. But, on the final day, when folks could branch out, Scott Dobson actually ran to St. Clair and many of the other pros ventured into Lake Erie. READ MORE »

Grubb Wins Co-Angler Side at the Detroit River

Grubb Wins Co-Angler Side at the Detroit River

Taking the co-angler win in the Toyota Series Northern Division event on the Detroit River, Tony Grubb weighed four bass for 14 pounds, 1 ounce on the final day for a 46-5 total. For the win, his second as a co-angler with FLW, Grubb takes home a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat worth over $35,000. READ MORE »

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 3

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 3

With the wind laying down a bit, the top 10 anglers in the Toyota Series Northern Division event on the Detroit River have been able to go wherever they pleased today. With crisp morning temperatures, plenty of sun and a north wind, the conditions have largely been quite good, with mixed results from the anglers. READ MORE »

Dobson Grabs Second Toyota Series W

Dobson Grabs Second Toyota Series W

Weighing 18 pounds and 9 ounces on day three for a 59-3 total, Scott Dobson moved from second to first to win the Toyota Series Northern Division event on the Detroit River. The win is Dobson’s second in Toyota Series competition and his eighth overall with FLW. For the win, Dobson takes home $27,534 and further burnishes his record as one of the best smallmouth anglers on the planet.   READ MORE »

Burton Edges Ahead at the Detroit River

Burton Edges Ahead at the Detroit River

Day two of the Toyota Series Northern Division event on the Detroit River saw the pros stuck in the river itself again due to the wind. Moving up from fourth place into the lead, Wilson Burton weighed 20 pounds, 4 ounces to get up to a 40-11 total. With the only 20-pound bag of the day, Burton slipped past Scott Dobson by just one ounce, who weighed 19-12 and sits behind him with a 40-10 total. READ MORE »

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 2

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 2

With strong wind from the north again, the Toyota Series Northern Division field was again confined to the actual Detroit River. On day one, the fishing was quite good, and several pros crossed the 20-pound mark and plenty of limits hit the scales. Today, things seem a little tougher. READ MORE »

Stokes Leads on the Detroit River

Stokes Leads on the Detroit River

Strong winds kept the pros in the Toyota Series Northern Division event on the Detroit River pinned to the actual river, but the fishing was still very good. Plenty of anglers brought in 17 pounds or more, and the leaders are all concentrated around the 20-pound mark. In first, Troy Stokes of Brownstown, Mich., weighed 21 pounds, 4 ounces to kick things off. READ MORE »

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 1

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 1

Right off the bat, the anglers in the field at the Toyota Series Northern Division event on the Detroit River were thrown a curveball by the weather. This morning, with increasing wind forecasts, tournament officials made Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair off-limits, thereby penning up the 87 pros and co-anglers on the American side of the Detroit River. READ MORE »

Smith Wins Southeastern AOY

Smith Wins Southeastern AOY

Originally from Wisconsin and sometimes wearing a Green Bay Packers hoodie on stage, Dustin Smith doesn’t fit the mold of Toyota Series Southeastern Division Strike King Angler of the Year. Still, Smith hammered out a pair of top 10s and a 27th-place showing en route to the title, and his style of fishing was simply perfect for this season in the Southeastern Division. READ MORE »

Northern Division Finishes at Detroit River

Northern Division Finishes at Detroit River

The 2020 Toyota Series Northern Division will wrap up in Trenton, Mich., Sept. 17-19, at the Detroit River. Hosted by the Detroit Sports Commission, the three-day tournament will feature the region’s best bass-fishing pros and co-anglers casting for a top prize of up to $65,000, plus a $35,000 bonus if the winner is a qualified Phoenix Boat owner. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Sturgeon Bay

Top 10 Baits from Sturgeon Bay

Summertime smallmouth fishing makes having a drop-shot or two on the deck pretty essential, and the top pros in the Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota on Sturgeon Bay basically all relied on the versatile finesse rig to get the job done. However, between them, there was a decent amount of variation in baits, and a few pros actually branched out from the drop-shot into other techniques. READ MORE »

Practice at Sturgeon Bay with Shuffield

Practice at Sturgeon Bay with Shuffield

Spencer Shuffield has had a tremendous season on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit and he capped it off with a top 10 finish at Lake Erie. Now, he’s getting ready for the Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota on Sturgeon Bay, which has only the top 50 Pro Circuit anglers in it and will be a Major League Fishing (MLF) format event. READ MORE »

Mundy goes Back-to-Back on Erie

Mundy goes Back-to-Back on Erie

Totaling up 41 pounds, 6 ounces, Dan Mundy won the co-angler side of the Toyota Series event on Lake Erie and is about ready to start a boat dealership. After winning the first Northern Division event of the year, the Michigan co-angler went back-to-back in the second event of the season to claim another Phoenix boat worth $33,500. READ MORE »

Mitchell Holds on at Erie

Mitchell Holds on at Erie

After weighing nearly 25 pounds on day two, Kurt Mitchell put 15 pounds, 8 ounces on the scale on the final day to close out the win in the Toyota Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie. With 60-2 total, Mitchell earned his first FLW win and pocketed $26,206 in winnings. READ MORE »

Mitchell Swings into the Lead on Erie

Mitchell Swings into the Lead on Erie

Day two of the Toyota Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie was tough on some, but it was a party for Kurt Mitchell. Weighing 24 pounds, 11 ounces, he moved up from second into the lead with a 44-10 total. Only the top 10 fish on the final day and they’ll have a steep hill to climb to catch Mitchell. READ MORE »

Lake Erie Midday Update – Day 2

Lake Erie Midday Update – Day 2

Day two of the Toyota Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie has posed some serious challenges from a coverage perspective. Not only are the leaders fishing about as far apart as possible, but the waves to the east of Sandusky are pretty huge. Still, from the reports we have, it looks like plenty of fish will come to the scale one way or another. READ MORE »

Parker Whacks 21-6 on Erie

Parker Whacks 21-6 on Erie

Due to big winds and waves, day one of the Toyota Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie was somewhat hampered. Still, the fishing was pretty good, and Dick Parker of Lorain, Ohio, sacked up 21 pounds, 6 ounces to take the lead. READ MORE »

Another Erie Battle Begins

Another Erie Battle Begins

The Toyota Series Northern Division is going out of Sandusky Bay on Lake Erie once again. This week’s event takes place on August 18-20, and it is the second stop of the Northern Division. Like the last event out of Sandusky, Erie is in play, as well as the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair, with all Canadian waters being off-limits to fishing. READ MORE »

Previewing the TITLE on Sturgeon Bay

Previewing the TITLE on Sturgeon Bay

The culmination of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit season, the top 50 pros in the standings are headed to the Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota on Sturgeon Bay. Fishing with the Major League Fishing (MLF) catch, weigh and immediate release format, the winner will take home $200,000 and be the first to win the new championship event. READ MORE »