By Sam Rutherford
Ah, fall. Cooler temperatures and fewer boats on the water make the days more enjoyable for bass fishing. There is a challenge with fishing during the autumn season, and it can be frustrating or fun.
The challenge is the bass are on the move. Bass movement is highest in the fall and spring. In the latter season, the bass migrates from deeper wintering areas to spawn in shallow water. They only have one direction to go. Intercept them by tracing their migration routes and at the transition areas they use to hold for rest, feeding, and escapes back to deep water during cold fronts.
Fall movement is different. Bass movement is more widespread and influenced by one thing. Bait. Find the bait, find the bass. That might seem easy when it’s not. Schools of baitfish roam throughout the water column and across wide areas of a lake. They could be here today, gone tomorrow, after vacating an area with the bass following them.
How do you find the bait, and then the bass, during fall? By putting together patterns that match the prevailing conditions and your style of fishing. Here are six to get you ready.
In fall, the fish are transitioning from deep to shallow water because the baitfish are, too. The baitfish begin to move shallow, and when they do, so do the bass to feed upon them. When they do, Skeeter Boats Pro Team angler Derek Hudnall uses an old school pattern that works today. That is using a spinnerbait to mimic the movement and flash of the baitfish.
“It can be super effective when you find baitfish around shoreline cover, like laydown trees, isolated wood, and boat docks,” Hudnall said. “The baitfish like to relate to that type of cover, and they will attract the bass.”
The Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Louisiana favors a 1/2-ounce white spinnerbait sporting tandem willow leaf blades. Completing the outfit is a St. Croix Rods Mojo Bass rod, 7’1″ in length with a medium/fast action. He spools 15-pound fluorocarbon on a high-speed reel for fast retrieve to trigger strikes.
During fall, the bass can be tough to catch from angling pressure from spring through summer. Their metabolism also begins to slow, thereby creating the need for a pattern that will tease them into biting.
Hudnall chooses a wacky-rigged worm for those reasons.
“You are trying to catch them outside their feeding schedule because, during this time of year, they are nocturnal feeders,” he said.
Hudnall rigs a weightless wacky worm, impaling the hook in the middle of the worm, allowing the sides to dangle from each side. He throws the rig on spinning tackle, using a St. Croix Rods Legend Extreme, 7’1″ in length with a medium action fast tip. On a spinning reel, he spools a 15-pound braided line with a 15-pound fluorocarbon leader. Completing the rig is a Missile Baits the 48 Worm, and a No. 2 Gamakatsu Stinger Hook.
“Cast it to isolated cover like wood, docks, and any cover in cover, be it wind-driven or natural,” he said. “Cast it into the cover and let it drift.”
Shallow flat bottoms bordered by deeper water are ideal feeding areas for the bass. They will come up from deeper water to feed on baitfish as they pass over the shallow side of the flat. Find flats on a map or by using your GPS mapping technology on a graph. When you find the flats, choose those exposed to wind.
Skeeter Pro Team angler Chris Zaldain chooses a Megabass Vision 110 Jerkbait as his top choice for fishing windblown flats. Use a jerk, jerk, pause retrieve for best success.
As temperatures continue to cool, Zaldain adds a lipless crankbait to his lure rotation. His choice is a 1/2-ounce Megabass Vibration X, which he can use to make long casts across the cast to cover more water.
As noted by Hudnall, bass relates to wood cover in the backs of creeks during fall. For that reason, Zaldain always has a black-and-blue Santone Lures M Series Flipping Jig on a casting outfit at the ready. He makes short flips and pitches to isolated cover, in either stained or clear water.
Use these tactics, and you will be ahead of the game during a time when bass fishing is seasonally slow.
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