Tips for More Fall Bass

It's time to switch gears, changing tactics and presentations in order to catch more autumn largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass

Step outside and you can definitely tell fall is in the air. The weather is beginning to cool, and the water temperature is starting to fall in many of our lakes and streams. As the water cools, black bass fishing begins its fall transformation.

It’s time to switch gears, changing tactics and presentations in order to catch more autumn largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass. Here are some tips to help you succeed.

Learn the Subtleties of Fall Bass Behavior

The summer-to-autumn transition period frustrates many anglers because bass behavior may change abruptly with subtle changes in water temperature, water clarity, weather, food availability and other factors. To be successful this season, it’s important to learn how to pattern bass under varying conditions. On-the-water experience is the best teacher, but it also pays to study books, magazine articles and internet material to gain an edge.

Fish often, read voraciously and learn.

Find the Baitfish

In lakes and reservoirs with shad or other schooling baitfish, a successful fall bassing trip is within your grasp if remember a simple saying: Find the baitfish, and you’ll find the bass. This is easier said than done, of course, but often it means the difference between success and failure.

Learn the signature a school of baitfish makes on your fish-finder, and watch early and late in the day for shad breaking on top. Largemouth bass almost certainly will be near these schools no matter if they’re 30 feet down or right on top. Concentrate your fishing in areas where baitfish are abundant.

Scouting Topside

Near dawn and dusk in early autumn, black bass often rove in loose groups, feeding gluttonously on baitfish near the surface. Pinpoint these schools by looking for topside swirls punctuated with spritzes of leaping baitfish, often near creek mouths, islands, humps and shallow bays. Watch the water with binoculars to zero in on these hotspots. When a school is spotted, move within casting distance, using your trolling motor as you get close to avoid spooking the fish.

Prop on Top

When the water has a glassy surface, and no top-running baitfish are evident, you may elicit some action by working a Heddon Torpedo or other prop bait around cover or grass. Avoid overworking the lure, however, as many anglers tend to do. The optimum presentation is often nothing more than an occasional twitch or a very slow, steady retrieve that barely turns the props.

Cast to the shade of a laydown or in small holes peppering a weedbed. In these situations, the strike zones are small, and often, the first forward sputter of the prop bait is all it takes to trigger a strike.

Spooks at Sunset

Another productive early-autumn tactic is walking the dog just as the sun goes down. Bass seem to feed most ravenously at twilight if the air and water are still warm, particularly in smaller lakes and reservoirs. And a topwater stickbait like the Zara Spook zigzagged across the surface of shallow, timbered flats and cover-strewn shorelines will prove irresistible to many heavyweights.

Wiggle a Jerkbait

Hard-plastic jerkbaits such as Smithwick’s Rattlin’ Rogue are enticing to slow-motion hunters on sunny, shallow flats during early-autumn afternoons. Cast the lure near bass cover, then let it sit, easily catchable for an instant before it wiggles a few feet away, only to pause in suspense, beckoning to be bitten again. Wiggle and flash it slowly a few feet more, each time pausing to entice the bite that comes during one suspended moment when hunger overcomes hesitation.

Giant Poppers for Giant Bass

If you’re hoping to catch a trophy bass, (and who isn’t?) try using a bigger popper than the 2- or 3-inchers you usually throw. Giant poppers such as the 5-inch Creek Chub Knuckle-Head or the 6- or 7-inch Cordell Pencil Popper won’t produce as many bass, but the ones you catch will be much larger on average. Small bass rarely touch these humongous lures, and big ones often seem hesitant to strike them. Those big autumn hawgs will succumb to the popper’s allure, however, if you work it patiently near shallow cover, allowing it to sit for minutes on end if necessary, with only an occasional tug to give it a splooot! that draws big bass near for a look. Use heavy tackle when working these, and be prepared for explosive strikes that may come at any time.

The Silver Minnow

Another topnotch fall bass lure is the Johnson Silver Minnow spoon. Fish it anywhere the bass are—weedbeds, open humps, deep, shallow. Few lures are as versatile.

Many anglers add a pork frog or pork eel. Another good Silver Minnow sweetener is a 4-inch curly-tailed grub. Thread the soft-plastic body up onto the curvature of the hook, and secure it to the spoon’s butt with a dab of superglue. Cast to a likely hotspot and use a steady retrieve that keeps the lure barely under the surface so there’s a slight bulge in the water.

Vary the combination of spoon and grub for different situations. For example, near dawn and dusk, a gold spoon/black grub combo works better than many other combos. Try silver/chartreuse in turbid or muddy water.

Bass fishing can be tough during this transition time, but if you try some of these tips, chances are good you’ll connect with your fair share of largemouths, smallmouths or spotted bass. Good luck!

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