by Steve Wright, OutdoorChannel.com
Fall is about eliminating water. That’s the way Bassmaster Elite Series pro Terry Butcher views it, and it makes autumn one of his favorite times to bass fish.
“The fish get really shallow,” said the 40-year-old Talala, Okla., pro. “I like fishing shallow. Once the temperatures get down there, I don’t have to worry about those guys offshore beating me because you can win on the bank.”
When the water surface temperature drops into the 70s, the fall bass fishing patterns begin. And they will hold as temperatures continue to drop into the 50s.
The tackle arsenal for the two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier gets pretty simple then. He’ll start his day with something on the surface – sometimes a Zara Spook, but usually a Booyah Pip Squeak buzzbait. His color choice in that buzzbait might surprise you.
“Early in the morning in the fall I always want to throw a buzzbait,” Butcher said. “It’s just a good topwater bait for me that time of year. I can cover a lot more water with it than I can with a Spook or something like that.
“I like black. It’s something a little bit different than what everybody else is throwing. I’ve had a lot of success on black, but it’s mainly in the early morning hours and in low light conditions. As the day gets lighter, I’ll go to white.”
That black buzzbait Butcher throws is actually a two-color mix on both the blades and the skirt of black and deep orange or red. It’s called azur.
Once the buzzbait action ends, Butcher will change to an Xcalibur square-billed crankbait. His two favorite colors are citrus shad for dingier water and foxy lady in clearer water.
“Shad start getting up on the bank,” Butcher said, “and the bass start coming in with them. My absolute favorite bait to throw then is that Xcalibur 100 series crankbait. I’ll throw it anywhere in one to three feet of water – points, rock, wood – anywhere fish might be holding.
|Butcher ‘s favorite fall bait is an Xcalibur 100 Series crankbait. This citrus shad color is good for dingier water. (Steve Wright photo)|
“Especially here in Oklahoma, I’m going to target logs and weeds. On Grand Lake, for example, they like to get on really shallow flat rocky points.”
Butcher will have two other lures tied on the rods on his boat deck. One is a spinnerbait, usually in a white or white-and-chartreuse color pattern, that he’ll burn around wood structure and shallow points. The other is a Yum Wooly Bug tied on a flipping stick.
“I’ll always flip a Wooly Bug at a piece of wood,” Butcher said. “If it’s dirty water, I’m going to throw a black neon color. If it’s just stained water, I’ll use a Big O color, which is kind of a green-pumpkin/blue.”
Butcher makes fall fishing sound simple – stick with a few baits, concentrate on one to three feet of water, and work those lures around any available cover. Best of all, you don’t even have to look behind you, because the anglers fishing offshore aren’t going to beat you, if you’re playing your cards correctly.
Browning up a creek
Which came first, the chicken or the egg, or in this case, the bass or the shad? Elite angler Stephen Browning doesn’t know if bass follow the shad or if bass are just moving shallow with the water surface temperatures cooling.
But he does know fall is his favorite time of year. Bass seem to know it’s time to start gorging. When that happens, Browning focuses on fishing topwater lures.
“I like topwater baits, and I’ve always been a big double-prop guy,” he said. “Something in a shad pattern is best. I like buzzbaits, too. Anything that imitates that gurgling sound of a shad getting busted by another fish, that’s what I start off with.
“I’ll start in the very, very back end of creeks. What I look for is where you can almost see the bottom, then that little break. It’s a foot-and-a-half to two-foot break most of the time.”
|Stephen Browning will use a LiveTarget Crawfish to dig around mud flats, bounce off chunk rock banks, roll through timber and target isolated logs in the backs of creeks. (Steve Wright photo)|
Clunn goes square
Four-time Bassmaster Classic winner Rick Clunn said his favorite lure this time of year has long been a square-billedcrankbait.
He won the 1976 Classic throwing a Bagley Honey Bee crankbait, but now favors a Luck E Strike Series 1, 2 or 3. He says size is key and the fish will tell you.
“The one thing that’s important in the fall is what size bait the fish want,” said the Ava, Mo., resident. “Sometimes they want a big one; the next year they might want a small one.”
Follow the shad
Keith Poche says fall is all about shad, and matching what the fish are feeding on. So the Elite Series angler carries a variety of lures and starts the day with topwaters.
“Buzzbaits, Zara Spooks, Pop-Rs — those types of baits are good first thing in the morning,” Poche said. “You're concentrating on shad.”
Poche’s second choice is a crankbait — either a square-bill or something that runs just a little deeper (5 to 10 feet). Poche prefers Luck E Strike crankbaits and will adjust size and depth depending on what the fish seem to want that day.
“You really have to match what the bass are feeding on.,” Poche said. “Let the fish tell you what they want.”
|Another of Poche’s fall favorites is a spinnerbait. He burns it and bumps cover to get a reaction bite. (Steve Wright photo)|