Things are changing around much of the country. There’s at least a hint of coolness in the mornings for many of us, and the cooler temps will settle in for us all in coming weeks.
The air temps aren’t the only thing on the move, however. Those first few cool nights really start to shift the surface temps of our fisheries. As this happens the shad, which have sought shelter from the heat by venturing to deeper and deeper water throughout the summer, now start to surface again as the first 3 or 4 feet of water start to cool.
This dramatic initial movement is just the beginning, as baitfish start to really group up and stay on the move throughout the fall. Moving with the bait is critical for fall fishing success, so today we’re going to talk a little about what that looks like.
Late summer, early fall
As the shad surface, you’ll typically be able to visually identify the schools of bait by ripples on the water. Look for busting bass, stripe and other predatory fish as well, as you’ll often be able to see these fish actively chasing and blowing up on the bait.
When you see this, pickup your topwaters and single swimbaits. These are great fish catchers when the bass are out schooling on bait in open water like this. And when making your lure selection, remember that the bass and small schools of bait can be pretty spread out over an area. So, choosing a bait with a little weight to it that you can cast a long way really helps your chances of reaching the fish.
As fall really sets in, you’ll notice the bait start to leave these vast areas over deeper water and begin to move towards pockets, sloughs and creeks. As they enter into the mouths of these locations, the bass will use shallow points to concentrate the bait. Targeting bass around the primary points heading into these locations will almost ensure a few bites.
Moving further into the sloughs and creeks, you can find fish on secondary points as the bass and bait make their way in. The bass will also lockdown on cover as they make their way down the banks between these points, and setup shop to ambush passing prey. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and other shad imitating lures work well this time of the year.
As the water continues to cool, the shad will push further and further back into these sloughs, pockets and creeks. On many fisheries, these areas will flatten out in the back. The shad will group up on these flats and the bass will chase them around, with great success since there’s no deep water for the bait to dive into to escape.
This time of the year, topwaters can still work well, but it may be getting a little too cool for the bass to want to completely break the surface. So, subsurface baits tend to be a little more productive. A lipless crankbait is perhaps the best bait for this situation, as it can be casted far and fished at varying depths below the surface.
Single swimbaits and Scroungers are also great baits this time of the year, especially on highland reservoirs where the water in the backs of these pockets may be a little deeper and clearer. A jerkbait is another great option given these conditions, as it mimics a shad well and can be fished slower as the water continues to cool.
Staying in step with the bait throughout the fall is essential when looking for bass. The bass won’t be far from the bait, so if you see visual indicators of bait along the surface early in the fall, you know you’re in the right place. Using topwaters and subsurface lures, you can follow the bait as they move from open water towards the pockets, sloughs and creeks.
Focus on these same baits as well as baits that can be fished well around cover as the bass and bait group up around points and on banks between the points. Continue to look for the visual indicators of bait along the surface, as well as fish chasing them. As the fall progresses and the water continues to cool, the bait will move further back. Stick with them and you’ll find that they’ll eventually run into a dead end where you can experience some of the best fishing of the fall.
We have a tendency as angels to fish for memories, getting caught up in targeting bass this weekend where we caught them last weekend. It’s important to fight this urge in the fall, and instead fish loose and stay with the shad. If you can do this in the coming months, you’re sure to catch lots of fish.