How to Catch Fall Bass 101
Article by Kenny Covington
When it comes to bass fishing, my favorite time of the year, without a doubt, is in the fall. The woods are full of hunters, and the waterways are left to just a few of us die hard anglers. What many don’t know is that fall can be the best time of year to catch bass. In this month’s column I want to give you some tips and lures that may help you catch more bass this fall.
My favorite thing about fishing this time of year is that most of it will be done in fairly shallow water. That isn’t to say the fish can’t be caught out deeper, because they can. However, deep water fish can be finicky, and it has always seemed to me that if I can figure out the right lure and area to fish it, the shallow water fish are usually more cooperative.
Here are a few rules I think are very important to remember when fishing for shallow fall bass.
Rule #1: You can never fish too shallow
In the fall of the year shad will migrate to the backs of creeks and coves. Bass, being the predators that they are, follow these schools of baitfish searching for an easy meal. It’s not uncommon to see bass feeding on shad in water that is only inches deep so don’t be afraid to go as shallow as your boat will allow you to go.
A common mistake fishermen make this time of year is to look at a shallow flat. When they don’t see any visible cover they think would hold fish, they tend to write the area off, because it doesn’t look good. Cover isn’t a requirement, if shad are present. If an area is showing shad activity, take the time to search it for actively feeding bass. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Rule #2: The size of your lure can be critical
A few years ago I won a fall tournament on Lake D’Arbonne using a squarebill crankbait. In practice I caught fish on a smaller version of the lure, but I wasn’t catching the size I had hoped for. A good friend of mine, Jimmy Wright, made the comment to me that he was throwing a bigger squarebill, and the fish were choking it. The day of the event I used the bigger bait in my choice of areas, and I won the event. I didn’t catch as many fish as I had the week before using the smaller bait but the fish I caught on the bigger lure were a better quality.
We all have favorite lures, but don’t allow your loyalty to them become your downfall. Allow the fish, especially the bigger ones, to tell you what they want. If you are throwing a Pop R and catching smaller bass, switch to a Chug Bug or a Spook, and you may start catching the bigger fish in a particular area. The importance of lure size cannot be overstated.
Rule #3: If your lake has aquatic vegetation, fish it
Coontail moss, hydrilla, milfoil, duckweed, lily pads or even pepper grass beds. The areas of your lake that has any of these types of vegetation should be at the top of your list of places to fish. Fish use grass flats for every aspect of their survival. They can use them for security reasons during cold fronts, they can easily feed on the other inhabitants, such as bream and crawfish, and they can use the grass line to access both deep and shallow water. Everything a bass needs for survival can be found in areas that have an abundance of vegetation. The hardest part of bass fishing is locating the bass. When you focus on areas that have grass half of your work is already done.
One of the drawbacks to fishing grassy areas is that the fish are often not very widespread. Often times they will have one small area that they congregate to and until that area is discovered, it can be quite frustrating to fish. Pick lures that will allow you to fish around the grass such as a Rat L Trap, over the grass such as a Zoom fluke and into the grass such as a frog.
Rule #4: Cover water
Since you are basically trying to eliminate water to find actively feeding fish, in the fall of the year there is no reason to fish slow. I choose lures that will allow me to not just cover water but will also catch fish regardless of the scenarios I may encounter. My fall fishing day will always start with a ½ double willowleaf shad colored spinnerbait, a chrome/ blue ¼ ounce Rat L Trap, a Spook, a 1.5 squarebill crankbait and a small jig.
With these five lures I can cover 100% of the water column in any lake I go to. Remember, you want to use your lures as tools. These five lures work great, but if I go to a lake that has a lot of grass then I will probably need to alter my choices. Pick the right lures for the job at hand.
Rule #5: Stay open minded
The worst thing you can do when you put your boat in the water is to say “I am going to catch them on…” or say “well, they should be biting on…” because I have caught them on that before. It isn’t very often that I do well in fall tournaments by using techniques I have used in previous events. Each trip is different, and I have learned the more open minded I am, the better my success tends to be.
Well, it looks like we’ve run out of room for this month. Please be careful while in the woods or on the water. Catch one for me, and I will see you next month!