An old fishing saw says, “You can't buy happiness, but you can go fishing, and that's pretty much the same thing.”
And right now, when the leaves are turning and the kids are back in school, is one of the best times of the year to buy yourself some fishing happiness by getting out on the water—particularly if you’re targeting big bass. Want to cash in on some line-screaming action this fall? Try these four tips for hungry autumn bass.
One of the beauties of fall fishing is that you don’t have to be on the water at the crack of dawn. Midday, when the sun is at its peak, is prime time for bass as sunshine warming the surface water temperature will help trigger the bite. And don’t forget to keep an eye on the forecast.
A few warmer days, when you get a rapid rise in daytime temperatures upwards toward the 60’s, can drive fish crazy. If storms are predicted, try fishing incoming fronts as falling barometric pressure often triggers fish to feed. As the storm passes, fishing the backside, as the barometer rises, is also a good time to find fish in a hungry mood.
Bass and other species tend to stay deeper when water temperatures are warmer, but as the water cools in fall, look for bass to head for shallower waters in search of food.
Migrating groups of shad are a favorite baitfish at this time of year. Look for schools of shad busting the surface and bass won’t be far away. Underwater points and the deep edges of aquatic vegetation are also great places to target. In northern lakes, rock piles often attract smallmouth bass and walleyes in the fall.
On reservoirs, look for meanders in creek bottoms and river beds or isolated stump fields. These serve as natural gathering places for fall fish that are generally far more scattered earlier in the season. Fall is also a great time to cast under docks or right along the edge of a dock’s shadow line.
Unlike earlier in the season, when fish are highly active and apt to crash any topwater lure you throw at them, cold-blooded fish move slower as water temperatures begin to cool down. This calls for slow retrieves that tease fish into striking. Bass and larger fish species want to conserve energy (and weight) when water temperatures begin to drop, so they tend to key on larger baitfish. Now is the time to throw those big lures you’ve been saving.
Try using larger shad imitators and a purposely-slow retrieve. Jerking your lure occasionally to imitate an injured baitfish may be all it takes to force a strike. Lipless crankbaits, like Strike King’s Red Eyed Shad are great choice for fall bass as their action and the vibration of their free-floating rattles in the water imitates an injured baitfish that bass can’t resist.
Large spinnerbaits are another good choice to use as they imitate shad that have grown to three inches or more later in the fall. You can use faster retrieves if you’re seeing shad on top being chased, but using slow retrieves along the bottom will often draw strikes from big bass that may be farther down.
Looking to catch the biggest bass in the lake? Try throwing a 5- to 10-inch glide bait like Berkley’s Power Nessie. These single-jointed lures really look like a real fish and their swimming action on retrieves is super enticing. Fish them 10 to 15 feet deep and give your retrieves a jerk every now and then to resemble a darting fish. Sometimes just that little bit of extra action is all you need to draw a monster strike.
No bites on any of the above? Try throwing soft plastic baits, like artificial crawfish or plastic worms, or even topwater lures.
Bass can be finicky in fall, but on warmer days the action can be red hot. And chances are you’ll have big stretches of water all to yourself.