Die hard bass fishermen love the fall. We would much rather be on the water trying to fool a bass than perched in a tree waiting on something with horns to wander by or sitting in front of the TV watching guys play with a ball. Fortunately, many of our less fanatical bass fishing brethren like those other sports so we don’t have to share the honey holes with as many other fishermen. Add in the lack of pleasure boats, jet skis and skiers and fall fishing is almost heaven.
Bass activity also makes fall a fantastic time to fish for them. The cooling waters spur a feeding spree as the bass fatten up for the coming months. They like a high protein diet so shad and crayfish are their favorite prey this time of year.
Several other factors make this a good time of year to chase bass. The water is settled and clearer than during much of the year so you don’t have to worry as much about changing conditions. Lake levels are generally dropping so you can easily spot cover and structure on the exposed shoreline that shows you were to fish. The weather is not miserably hot or cold above the water, so you can fish in comfort. And you can simplify your tackle and areas of the lake you cover.
Starting in October but at its peak in November three baits really shine for bass fishing. You can have a crankbait, spinnerbait and jig and pig tied on and leave all the other rods and lures in the rod locker. These three baits will allow you to cover the water the fish are in and catch them now.
A crankbait is a good choice to fish fast and look for feeding bass. Choose a one-quarter to three-eights ounce bait in browns to match crayfish in clear water. If the water is a little stained pick the same size baits but some chartreuse helps. An orange belly is best for either one.
A white spinnerbait with two silver willowleaf blades works well in the fall. One quarter to half ounce baits with matching size blades look like shad and can be fished from top to bottom. Add a split tail white trailer for bulk and a little more action and bass will eat it. Change to a gold willowleaf and silver Colorado blades and use a skirt with some chartreuse as well as white if you find any stained water.
In clear water a brown jig and pig is an excellent choice. One with a brown skirt with a few strands of orange imitates a crayfish. A one eight ounce bait is good when working heavy cover like rocks and brush since it won’t get hung as badly. Don’t downsize the skirt and trailer size, just use a lighter head.
Got to a three eights ounce jig for more open cover where you are less likely to get hung. Try a blue and black combination jig and pig for water with some stain in it. With either bait, use a straight tail chunk type pig when you want a faster moving bait but hook on a twin curly tail grub to slow the fall and for more action in the bait when hopping it off the bottom.
Bass tend to move into creeks looking for food as the water cools. Shad will migrate into creeks and bass follow them. Pick a few smaller creeks on your favorite lake, start working at the first main lake point and work back into the creek until you find the fish. Until you locate them work all the cover and structure as you come to it.
Once you locate the area the fish are in you can go to other creeks and start fishing the same area and cover in them. If you find fish on secondary points half way back into one creek you are likely to find them in the same places in other creeks. Try to pattern the fish and you can then fish many areas without spending time in unproductive water.
Crayfish like rocks and hard mud bottoms so look for places that have them. Riprap and natural rock banks hold crayfish. They like to hide in the rocks and bass will be looking for them. Crayfish dig tunnels in hard mud bottoms and hibernate there so work any such places you can find; the crayfish are likely to be concentrated on them right now.
As shad move into the creeks they cross points and creek channel drops and bass will wait to ambush them there. A point or bar running out across deeper water is a good place to find them as is a creek swing where the lip runs across the creek. Always be watching for ambush points, a place where the bottom rises up from deeper water where bass can wait on the shad.
A crankbait is a good choice to start with since you can cover a lot of water quickly. Fish it on ten pound monofilament line and use a rod with some give to it. The mono and somewhat limber rod will help you hook the bass without pulling the lure away from them or tearing it out of their mouth. Check to make sure the hooks are sharp on the crankbait before your first cast, even on brand new baits.
Choose a crankbait that runs six to ten feet deep and make long casts and bump the cover. To keep it in the strike zone keep your boat in close to the bank and make parallel casts, angling the cast slightly to cover the water six to ten feet deep where the bait works best.
For a crankbait to be most effective it needs to be bumping the cover. Crank it down on a hard mud point and make it bounce along, kicking up puffs of mud like a moving crayfish. Pause every few feet then twitch your rod tip, making it dart forward like a startled mudbug. That will often trigger a reaction strike from a reluctant bass. Fish it the same way on rocks.
When fishing blowdowns, brush or stumps make your bait bump into it then pause so it floats up a little, then reel again. A crankbait with a large bill on its nose will bounce off wood cover and not get hung as much as one with a down facing bill further back on the body of the bait.
If you see baitfish dimpling the water pick up your spinnerbait and make a long cast. Reel it back fast so it “wakes” the surface like a fleeing baitfish. You need a well tuned balanced bait that will not roll at high speeds for this to be effective. You can use 12 to 14 pound monofilament line and a stiffer rod since the single hook on a spinnerbait will not tear out as easily.
If the bass don’t slam the fast moving bait, slow it down in steps. Try a retrieve that brings the bait back a few inches under the surface. Keep slowing it down until you are slow-rolling it, moving it with the blades turning but bumping the bottom. On all the retrieves stop the bait every few feet to make the skirt flare and draw a reaction strike.
Fish the spinnerbait over and across all drops where bass might ambush shad. You can also work it through blowdowns and over brushpiles where bass might be holding. In brush and blowdowns let it bump the limb then fall a few inches as it clears the limb. This falling action will draw strikes.
A jig and pig is one of the most versatile baits this time of year. Once you find the areas the bass are holding and the type cover they like, work a jig and pig for some of the bigger bass. Although any size bass will eat a jig and pig they are known for catching quality fish. Match line size to the cover and size of the jig you are fishing and use a rod with some backbone.
A light jig and pig is good worked slowly on rocks and through wood cover, imitating a feeding crayfish. Crawl it along slowly on the bottom, pausing every few inches like a feeding crayfish. When you bump a rock or limb stop it and jiggle it, then move it over the cover, letting it fall as it comes past it.
Hopping a jig and pig is very effective. Work the bait along the bottom but every few inches jump it six to 12 inches off the bottom like a startled crayfish. Let it fall back and sit still a few seconds, then move it forward again to the next hop.
The only thing you can do wrong this time of year is sitting at home. The weather and fish are cooperative; all it takes is you getting on the water to catch them.