Catching Bass during the season of change
The slow drop in temperature, the shortening of the days and the removal of the masses from the waterways, this is a signal of change. Hunters can’t wait for this time of year, it rings a bell inside of them, it signals great times and memory making days to come. As fisherman it brings a change that can be fortunate yet difficult. Bigger bass are reemerging from their summer haunts and the smaller fish will soon be few and far between but this is fall and anything can happen.
We all have our favorite time of year to fish, in my opinion fall is not normally first on most anglers list. I’ve had several top five finishes in fall tournaments and some of my biggest fish were caught this time of year, not saying I love it but I have an affinity with it. Some of the keys I’ve found to fishing the fall transition are cover, water temp, forage and water movement.
Lets start with cover, as the daylight hour lessens bass start looking for easy ambush areas that also are close to deep water. Points are some of the first areas I like to explore but not every point is the same, look for short points with deep water access. I like large rock points for better fish, by large I mean car hood size and bigger. Big bass like to suspend this time of year, large rocks give them a place to hold at the water level they prefer as well as the cover and ease of movement to feed on the bait moving through the area. Targeting this area with trout imitations, rip-baits and topwater lures can be great producers.
Next is points with grass lines at different levels, grass on points can be really productive all day long this cover allows for fish to pick and choose the level they feel most comfortable as the sun angle changes during the day. Grass also allows you to target those fish with the same baits you may have caught them on earlier in the day, by simply adjusting which grass line you fish you can sustain the bite for a longer period of time. My choice for baits in this situation are grass jigs, spinnerbaits and crankbaits (lipless and billed).
The last cover I look for is standing timber, this I focus on when the water temps really start to drop and the baitfish begin to school up in pockets. The timber will absorb heat and transfer it down the water column, bass can use this as ambush for food and to stay a bit warmer, bait will congregate in this area for cover and also warmth. My baits of choice are jigs with bulky trailers to allow for a slow vertical fall, dropshot with six inch worm and a Senko.
We all know how much water temp can effect bass to hot they won’t bite, to cold no bite, so how do you adapt to the many changes that can happen in the fall months? Look for stability and predictable changes. Tournament anglers don’t get to pick the weather they fish in but the pleasure fisherman sure does, so put the odds in your favor and watch the weather reports for the lake you’re fishing. What you want to see is consistency over a few days, rain, sun, temp, wind or snow no water which as long as it’s consistent. The fish need time to adapt to change so if you see change coming get on the water before or wait till it’s not change anymore, its just normal.
Forage this time of year is normally plentiful, crawdads, shad, bluegill, trout and any other type of bait are out and getting prepared for the winter weather ahead. It’s how the bass are reacting to each that dictates how and when you catch fish. Bass will school up and attack shad, smelt and herring as they school as well, this can be a great way to get a limit but not necessarily the largest fish. Schooling bass will usually have the smaller most aggressive fish near the top and the larger fish towards the middle or bottom waiting for the easy injured meal. Targeting the fish on the bottom with Crawdad imitations and injured fish lures is a great way to get that bigger fish.
Crawdads are not schooling animals but neither are really big largemouth bass, focusing on big fish cover such as lay down logs, boulders and grass pockets with jigs and other crawdad lures gives you that chance to get a really big bass.
Trout are beginning to move up from the eighty foot depth back into the upper water columns, this is the time of year I like to talk to the trolling guys and see where they are catching trout. Fishing the short, big rock points with big swimbaits is a must for your chance at fall giants. One key I’ve found is to remember that trout like to face upstream when swimming and feeding so position your self in a manor that brings your bait upstream against the current to give it a slower and more natural presentation. Also bass are ambush feeders so keep your bait as close to structure as possible this will allow the bass to pin the bait against cover making it an easier meal to target.
The last factor is current, fishing river systems you might already have a firm grasp on current and how bass use this daily but for lake and reservoir anglers this can be more tricky. Some Lakes and most reservoirs will start to draw down getting ready for the winter rains or to supply water for the salmon runs coming in the rivers below. This is where map reading and electronics work is very crucial, finding the river channels where the water will flow down deep yet be close to structure changes can really produce some quality fish. Check with your local dam to see if they have a schedule of releases or the date they begin releases.
In-flow of water can also be very productive, dry creeks that start to flow with small rains, major rivers may begin to swell each bringing new microorganisms that will attract baitfish which in turn will bring bass. Positioning and fishing areas where current coming in hits a bank or a turn in the main river channel can be excellent fishing because it will concentrate the baitfish into a predictable area. Spinnerbaits, rip-baits and small swimbaits can really excel in this situation.
These are some of the tactics I’ve used in the past to have success in the fall, I hope they can help you increase your catches this season. It can be tough or easy, if you use these tips I believe there will be more successful days than struggling ones.
See you on the water,
James “Big Ed” Everhart