Fishing with Kenny: Recognizing the Summer/Fall Connection
Article by Kenny Covington
After fishing a tournament once, I was asked by a fellow competitor what month did I believed to be the hardest to catch bass in and without hesitation I answered with “the month of September.” I then followed that up with, “The fish are between their summer haunts and their fall migrations. They become picky in their feeding habits and they just become down right hard to locate and can be even harder to catch.”
A few years have passed since I made that statement and it still holds true today. The month of September has always been an in-between month as far as seasonal changes that can be found in our local lakes and rivers. The fish are still there to be caught, you just have to take a little bit different approach to catching them.
The first thing to consider when bass fishing in the late summer/early fall of September is that the days are getting shorter. The water while still warm, will actually start cooling off a bit. Mother Nature has more of an awareness about this than humans do, so her creatures tend to get a head start on preparing for the cooler months that are to come.
The shorter days mean that bass will start moving. Many fishermen fail to realize the best water quality, even when the water temperatures are in the high 80s and low 90s, can be found in shallower water. This is why many times anglers who fish deeper areas on a lake tend to struggle this time of year, not because ALL of the fish have left deep water, but the more aggressive and easier to catch ones have.
So we have established that a lot of fish leave the deeper summer haunts to move shallow, but what about the ones that stay out deep? These fish tend to suspend over structure and chase baitfish whenever the opportunity presents itself. Suspended fish, in my opinion, are some of the hardest to catch. They aren’t relating to any type of cover or structure, so they tend to roam, searching for opportunities to feed on schools of bait.
It is this type of nomadic activity that makes them difficult to pinpoint or to consistently find the areas holding fish. They can be here one day and gone the next. As the bait goes, so do the bass. The best way to find active fish is to look for them using lures such as topwaters and lipless crankbaits that allow you to cover a lot of water. Also remember, just because bass are suspended in deeper water does not mean you can’t catch them shallow in the water column.
Speaking of shallow. We said earlier that a lot of late summer/early fall bass move to shallower water due to the better oxygen quality. One of my theories why bass move to the shallows this time of year is that most of the food supply they feed on has moved up as well. Schools of shad will begin migration to the creeks, slowly working toward the back. Bream, while consistently being found shallow, seem to be even more plentiful. The aquatic vegetation is thicker and the food chain seems to have fewer kinks in it.
This particular time of year is when I really pay close attention to my lure sizes and color schemes. I like smaller lures and I almost always use a shad pattern regardless of where I am fishing. The simpler I can keep things the more successful I tend to be on the water. When it comes to effectively covering shallow water, here is what I find to be the most productive lures and where I like to use them.
Small crankbaits like a Norman Tiny N or a 1.0 KVD Strike King Squarebill are perfect for this time of year. The shad being targeted are usually very small and these smaller crankbaits are killer for both numbers and for bigger bass. Make sure you have the correct rod/reel set up for throwing these lures, but don’t be afraid to use them on your standard bass tackle.
One of my favorite things to throw this time of year are 1/8 ounce spinnerbaits and buzzbaits. I have maintained for years that the best schooling bait ever made was a single willow leaf 1/8 spinnerbait. I like to use the buzzbait for topwater situations because the smaller buzzer will come through the heavily matted grass much easier and seems to catch bigger bass.
A ¼ ounce Rat L Trap or other smaller lipless crankbait should be a standard on any fishing trip for the month of September. Don’t get too hung up on colors as chrome/blue is really all you need. The Trap is probably the ultimate search bait for bass. You can burn it over shallow grass, cast it beyond targets such as docks and trees, or you can even throw it in the middle of schooling fish. It is a fish catcher.
Another technique often overlooked is a Carolina rig. The key to this technique, like everything else, is to think small. Shorter leaders, two feet or less, seem to work better for me and I tend to use smaller soft plastics such as finesse worms, baby brush hogs and Zoom Centipedes. If I had to pick only one lure to throw it would be a cotton candy finesse worm with the tail dipped in chartreuse.
Well it looks as if we have run out of space again for this month! Don’t be afraid to experiment with different lures and retrieves because you never know when the next cast will unlock the secret to that day’s success. As summer begins to wind down and we head into fall, please be careful on the water. Catch one for me and I will see you next month!