As water temperatures on area lakes begin to fall to more tolerable levels, bass once again will move out of their summers haunts. To me, bass fishing in the early autumn is as exciting as the spring. Bass become more aggressive and are will to chase a lure almost any time during the day.
Anglers can enjoy fishing and catching throughout the day. Knowing how to approach the transition time on a lake can provide plenty of angling action. A few simple lures and a starting point is all you need.
During the fall, boat traffic on most lakes has subsided from the summer rush. It would appear any spot on the lake would be a prime location for catching bass. But, there are some specific areas to kick off your day and improve your chances to score.
“I like to start off about half-way up a creek,” said B.A.S.S. pro Tim Horton of Muscle Shoals. “Shad and other baitfish will move up the creeks during the fall and the bass will follow.”
Horton said he will fish up the creek toward the back end watching for schools of baitfish. Also, he stresses keeping an eye out for any surface activity by shad or bass chasing shad on the surface. Many times, this activity will occur in open water away from the shoreline.
After a rain, the influx of water will usually do two things. One is an increase in current. While it's barely noticeable to the angler, the fish know it. Two, the rain usually will cool the water temperature some, and the shad and bass will move shallower.
“If the water gets a little color to it, that should make the bite a little better,” said Horton. “Fish around the 1- to 4-foot depth range. This is where the shad will be.”
B.A.S.S. Elite pro Greg Vinson of Wetumpka starts his fall fishing in the back of major feeder creeks. As the water cools the shad become more active and will form large schools. Anglers can see these wads of bait on the sonar units from about mid-depth to near the surface.
“By late summer the thermocline in the water column actually begins to rise,” Vinson said. “The area above the thermocline is where the fish will be.”
Get your gear on deck
Most pros will have a dozen or more rods out on their front deck at any given time during a tournament. Each rod rigged with a different lure. However, when fishing during the fall months only a few basic lures are needed for the party.
Horton and Vinson both approve of topwater baits, especially in the early morning or late afternoon hours. With overcast skies or as midday hours are cooler, topwater lures can be fished successfully throughout the day. Baits like the Zara Spook, Pop-R, Torpedo, Sammy and surface lures are smart choices.
“Sometimes bass will still be feeding on bream during the early fall,” Vinson said. “Then I will use a popping style bait. If the water is has a little color to it I will change to a walking type topwater bait.”
There are two key lures Horton always has tied on during the fall, a spinnerbait and a shallow running crankbait. Both of these lures mimic shad and other baitfish. Too, these lures can be fished faster to cover plenty of water for locating hungry bass.
Soft plastic jerkbaits like the Fluke or Swimmin’ Shad are great subs behind the surface lures. If a bass misses on a topwater bait, make a quick cast with the soft jerkbait to the same spot. Allow the lure to settle for a few seconds and be prepared to set the hook.
Depending on the lake and the amount of emergent vegetation, frogs and swim-jigs are also a viable option. On bright, sunny days bass will move to the weeds for cover and shade.
Lure colors should be any combination that resembles the forage bait in your lake. Obviously white, chartreuse, silver or gold colors will be top performers for fall bass.
Another prime location to search for fall bass is around main lake points. Shad will congregate on or near the points on their journey into the creeks. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits should be the lure of choice around points. Anglers should cast across and parallel to the point to cover it thoroughly.
“I will generally start out on the deeper end of the point and work up shallow,” Horton said. “A medium running crankbait is my choice for points in the fall months.”
Horton said if there is some wind blowing across the point to make your cast into the wind. The bass will usually position themselves on the break of the point waiting for the shad to swim by. Also, on windy days spinnerbaits are a good option.
Vinson has discovered the more clear the water the deeper the schools of shad will hold. If the water is stained the baitfish tend to move up shallower in the water column. Locate the shad and the bass won’t be far behind. He also suggests making some cast at the mouths of creeks and channel bends or swings.
The key to fall bass catching is staying up with the baitfish. Anglers should be prepared to cover a lot of surface acres of water in running down the schools of shad. The pro anglers advise not to waste your time fishing where baitfish are not visible.
Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at ChrJohn7@aol.com