Fall is in the air. The weather is cooler, and as days grow shorter, the water temperature is starting to fall in many of our lakes and streams. Cooler water means black bass fishing is beginning its autumn transformation.
It’s time to switch gears, changing the tactics and presentations we use with our lures in order to catch more fall bass. These tips can help you succeed.
Ledges and Lead for Lunkers
Whenever a severe cold front moves through in early autumn, the biggest largemouths often move deep. One place to find them is on steep banks with straight ledges dropping to a deep, rocky bottom.
Some fish will be near the bottom, others suspended at mid-depths. Most can be enticed with a simple yet overlooked lure combination - a leadhead jig with a small plastic worm trailer.
Use a 1/4- to 1/2-ounce jighead with a 4- to 6-inch worm rigged so the jig hook remains exposed. If bass are suspended, drop the lure at or slightly above their level, then let it sit, moving it only with slight periodic twitches.
If this fails to garner a strike, give the lure a quick upward snatch, then allow it to sink back to the level of the fish again where you work it once more with occasional twitches. Few bass can resist.
If bass are holding near rocks, cast beyond them and work the rig slowly across the bottom, twitching it upward and letting it fall every now and then. Slow, subtle movements of the lure tend to entice more lunkers.
Buoyant Crankbaits in Weedbeds
Fall bass often feed around submerged beds of elodea, coontail and other aquatic vegetation. One good tactic for nabbing these often-scattered fish is working a buoyant crankbait across the tops of the weeds.
This is best done using a sensitive, limber-tipped graphite rod and sensitive line such as 12-pound-test fluorocarbon, which allow you to detect when the crankbait starts snagging the weeds. Concentrate on the normal vibration of the lure during a retrieve, and when you feel a change in action that indicates the crankbait is touching the weeds, stop your retrieve and allow the lure to rise.
Strikes often come just as the bait rises into the clear zone above the weeds. If not, resume reeling until you feel a change in action again, stop the lure, let it rise and repeat, covering the entire weed bed in this fashion.
Big tubes also are versatile fall bass-catchers. Jig one down a deep drop-off, rip it through schools of suspended baitfish, inch it along a weed edge or work it over the top of thick vegetation.
A tip for these lures: add some Berkley Power Attractant or Jelly on the back end of the tube to prevent the tentacles from wrapping. You also can remove the hook and put a rattle chamber on it for some added bass-attracting noise.
Modified Spinnerbaits for Down-Under
When the water temperature hits its lowest level of the season, slow-rolling a spinnerbait across deep structure is a great way to entice lethargic largemouths. Problem is, most spinnerbaits weren’t made to fish deep, and the extra-heavy versions that are tend to be pricey. What we need is a good 25-cent fix that allows us to fish our everyday spinnerbaits in deep water.
One solution is adding a Rubbercor sinker—the kind with a removable rubber core that catfishermen often use—right on the wire of the spinnerbait. Remove the rubber insert and slide the lead onto the lower wire near the head of the spinnerbait. Then pull the rubber from each end to elongate and narrow it, and slide it back into its slot.
If necessary, widen the slot in the lead using needlenose pliers. You’re ready now to slow-roll the spinnerbait along deep creek channels and other bass-holding structure.
Troll a Spinnerbait
These modified spinnerbaits also can help you find nomadic bass as they move from deep channel edges to shallow flats in early to mid-autumn. Drop the lure near the bottom, then simply hold the rod while trolling at very slow speed.
For a better chance at a lunker, buy a few of those 2-ounce-plus giant spinnerbaits, and troll them in the same manner. You’ll catch fewer fish, but those that strike will be larger on average.
Pull Up Those Suspenders
If suspended fall bass are giving you fits, here’s a tip that may increase your hookups. Fish your lure beneath a slip bobber.
Tubes work great this way, as do small soft-plastic jerkbaits, worms and lizards. Position the bobber stop on your line so the lure will suspend at the proper depth just above the bass.
When you pull the bobber across the water, the lure rises. When you pause it, the lure swings slowly back down on a pendulum motion that drives bass crazy.
If this doesn’t produce, let the lure sit and wiggle it occasionally while you fish almost vertically from a distance.
If the lake you’re fishing sports a good smallmouth population, try running a spinnerbait with chartreuse blades just under the surface around offshore humps and rock piles. Entire schools of smallmouth bass often will rise out of deep water to chase down this bright-colored lure.
Spotted bass often hold around humps and rockpiles in autumn as well. Spinnerbaits will catch them, too, but because spots tend to be smaller on average, smaller lures are better enticements.
Try fishing a small jigging spoon using a vertical presentation, or one retrieved slowly across the bottom with regular flips of your rod tip.