It’s Fall, well almost Fall, it’s later September, the fish are either starting to move up or they are in that Transition period. Personally I think they are in that transition period, but are on the verge of moving up to feed any day now. I fished earlier this week and the bite was tough and I junk fish because I couldn’t find them, much less a pattern. You know that month between summer smacking them and the Fall bite? That’s where I think we are, so any day now. So, I’ve been asked by several young RB Bass followers, what will you be throwing when that happens?
There are two times, in the four seasons, we have to fish that are actually pretty similar but opposite. Even though Spring is a much more complex season for bass fishing, Fall is not all that different from Spring. Mostly because both seasons introduce more favorable water temperatures to bass. The difference is that in spring the waters are warming up towards optimal temp and in the fall they are cooling down towards optimal temp. Bass behavior has always been highly affected by water temperature. They are typically most comfortable and active in 60 to 75 degree water. In temperatures above or below than that range, bass begin to get more lethargic. Naturally, a lethargic bass is more difficult to catch than an active one. That’s what makes this temperature range a highly sought after window for bass anglers.
As these more comfortable water temps move in, and with bass sensing that winter is fast approaching, they go into what is known as “the fall feed” or the “Transition”. This is a time when bass tend to gorge themselves in preparation for winter. When winter sets in, bass become so lethargic that they barely need to eat at all. In fact, since their bodies burn such little energy in cold conditions they can survive on a single baitfish for an entire month.
Bass in general are on a feeding frenzy during the fall. But what makes the fall especially great for bass fishing is this when the biggest bass in the lake will be feeding aggressively. Older bass are very much aware of the changing season, and knows fully well the conditions that lie ahead. As a result, they know how to prepare. Luckily for bass fishermen, there is no better way for a bass to prepare for winter than getting as fat as possible.
There are certain techniques for fall bass fishing that when implemented correctly can get big bites right into November. It’s all about the right lures, the right colors, and the right action. Though there are many tactics that are used, I can’t fish them all, so here are few fall fishing tactics that are highly effective this time of year for me.
Slow Rolling Swimbaits:
This a fall fishing tactic that uses the tendency of bass to feed heavily on other fish. It is especially designed to target big bass. This technique can be used with surface swimbaits that wake on the surface or sinking/diving swimbaits that get down deep. In early fall, when water temps are still up, both style swimbaits can be equally effective. If there is a slight ripple on the surface with some decent cloud cover, you should lean more towards the surface presentation. If the water is rougher than a ripple and/or the sun is shining bright, go with the sinking/diving models.
When the temps get really low in the late fall, your best bet is working a sinking soft plastic paddle tail swimbait very slow on the bottom. You should only be reeling fast enough to give the tail some action, that’s it. When the water is cold, this is an ideal and easy to catch a meal for a lethargic bass.
Burning Fall Buzzbaits:
Some bass anglers will argue that the post-spawn phase of spring is the best time of year for buzzbaits. The other half of us will tell you the fall is the best time. Regardless, both times of year bring the similar conditions, so buzzbaits are at their peak when fall sets in. The best part of a buzzbait is how much water you can cover fishing them. You can blast multiple casts at a target and be on to the next one in the same time that you would cast a jig or soft plastic once. This makes the buzzbait a great way to start a fall fishing outing, and quickly determine if that’s the approach bass are looking for. Burning these baits across the top, in and around weed cover is going to be the high percentage points for a strike. The water’s surface is going to tell you whether or not a buzzbait is going to be successful. You should be looking for a slight ripple on the water, and/or baitfish popping on the surface. Shad and other baitfish are the primary prey for bass in the fall, so ripping a buzzbait through areas where they are is ideal. Naturally I use a shad color.
The great thing about bass jigs is they are effective year round. But they are especially well known for being one of the best fall bass lures. This is mostly due to how much control you have over their presentation, also the style of retrieval you use, and what color pattern you use, and your rate of retrieval. The jigs I use are from Canopy Grenade, as they have such versatility and it allows you to effectively fish it from early fall, right up to winter, just by making adjustments to your presentation. Swimming a jig in early fall is a great method for getting catching the active bass that this time of year. This is best done by rigging a swim jig, with a smaller paddle tail swimbait trailer. Running a swim jig through grass and light vegetation is a deadly tactic in early fall. However, after a cold front hits, a slow-moving jig, like the heavier football jig can be the best lure to try for inactive bass. Swim the jig along the sides of boat docks or flip it to any shallow cover to catch lethargic bass waiting to ambush shad that swim by their hideouts. Choose a 3/8-ounce jig with a magnum-sized plastic trailer for a slow-falling combo to trick a finicky bass into biting.
Jerkbaits or Ripbaits:
As winter starts to turn the corner, and water temperatures are getting down into the 40’s. In temps like that a jerkbait is one of the few lures that will get a bass to bite. It’s at this point in the season that bass are so inactive that they no longer need to replenish burned energy and are barely feeding. It’s the jerkbait’s ability to get a reaction strike that gives the bass angler hope in these cold water conditions. Jerkbaits have always had strong reputation for being cold water baits. This makes them very effective in early spring, late fall, and even into winter. This goes for both hard baits like the Pointer 100 and soft jerkbaits like Flukes. No matter which you use, the idea is to jerk the bait sparingly, letting it stand still for short periods of time. I use a count of 5 to 10. Those still periods should be relative to the water temp; the colder the water, the longer you should make the bait sit still. Finding the ideal action for me is done through trial and error.
In extremely cold water conditions, only soft swimbaits should be used. Unweighted, they have a natural slow sink rate that is appealing to bass in these temps. Once they sink to the bottom, they look like a dead or dying minnow laying waiting to get eaten. It’s effective and challenging, at least for me as I’m not the most patient angler.
This blade bait is one of the best lures for triggering a reaction strike from bass feeding on shad, and can be used throughout the year like the jig. Try a 1/2-ounce spinnerbait with tandem willow leaf blades and match the blades to the same size of the shad that time of the year. I use the War Eagle with silver blades seems to work best for me.
Square Bill Crankbait and Beast Hunter:
A square bill in a shad pattern or chartreuse with black back is ideal for banging into logs and stumps along flats loaded with shad. I like to use a smaller (2.25 inch) square bill, like the IMA Square Bill in early fall when bass are feeding more on shad and switch to a 3-inch square bill when bass forage on the bigger shad by late fall. A medium-diving crankbait like the IMA Beast Hunter produces in late fall when bass start moving to deeper water.
My favorite walking topwater plug is a Zara Spook. It’s hard to beat when bass are busting baitfish on the surface in clear water. On windy days try a noisier topwater plug such as a Whopper Plopper to draw bass to the top on a choppy surface. Retrieve these lures quickly throughout most of autumn but slow down your retrieve as the water temperature drops into the low 60s by late fall.
RB Bass Angler, Mike Rogers