John Janousek of Nisswa, Minnesota worked slow and deep for this big fall bass.
Photo by Ron Anlauf
(Aug. 31, 2010 - Braham, MN)
With all the hustle and bustle of the summer bass fishing season it's a relief to get back to a simpler and more peaceful place and time. Gone are the hordes of anglers as well as the jet skiers and pleasure boaters churning the water to a froth. Although fall fishing is seldom as intense as what you might experience throughout the summer it can still be awfully good, and chances are you'll have it all to yourself.
From early to late fall fish attitude and location can vary dramatically and anglers better be ready to adjust. The fall season is signaled by the arrival of the fall turnover which mixes everything up, re- distributing oxygen from top to bottom. Summer bass can be extremely predictable but become much more difficult to pin down after the turnover and may take a couple weeks before consistent patterns set up. The deeper patterns of late summer fall apart after the turnover and bass can be found just about anywhere including deep, shallow, and somewhere in between. However; it's the shallow areas that can see a lot more action early in the fall. Shallow structure like timber, docks, pad fields, and inside weedlines are some of the areas to concentrate your search.
There's no shortcuts to finding shallow water bass and all the options should be checked out. When faced with expansive shallow water structure it sometimes takes a little elbow grease to get the job done.
Presentations that let you cover water quickly such as casting spinner baits and even buzzbaits are top producers, especially early on in the fall season. The usual lineup can produce but more often than not you'll be more successful by slowing things down just a bit. While late summer bass may chase down a bait running at warp speed the cooler water temperatures of fall usually demand slower presentations.
Double bladed spinner baits like Northland Tackles Reed-Runner Pro-Series can be fished a little slower than single bladed models and are a good choice for working shallow water. The Pro-Series come in some fantastic new colors including Pumpkinseed which is a hot fall pattern. If you want to slow it down even more you can add a plastic trailer like a Slurpies Craw-Chunk. Buzzbaits probably aren't the first lure that comes to mind when you think of fall fishing but they can be surprisingly effective. Early fall bass will take a top water more often than most anglers would like to think, but instead of burning a bait back as fast as you can you might do better by slowing it down a notch. The Northland Buzzard can be worked steady and slow and chatters and squeals all the way back to the boat which can really turn fish on. You can add a plastic trailer to it as well and be able to slow it down even more and may keep the fish hanging on longer after the strike.
Another good shallow water option is a neutrally buoyant minnow bait like a Husky Jerk. The bait can be fished to a standstill and should be worked wherever you have larger open water pockets. Rather than using a steady retrieve try twitching and waiting, again and again. As you're working the bait back keep your eyes glued to the line. Quite often the strike will be signaled by a slight twitch in the line and is time to set the hook.
As you move further into the fall season look for deeper patterns to become more consistent. Large flats scattered with green standing weeds are often the key to finding mid fall largemouth. Spinner baits slowly worked through the remaining weed growth can help you locate scattered fish quickly. Another top technique involves running crankbaits like a #5 Fat Rap over these very same areas. Retrieves can vary from cranking the bait back just as slow as you can, to really picking things up and burning it in. Most of the time, you'll probably do better by keeping your presentations from a slow to medium speed. However; there are occasions when you may want to pick up the pace. Conditions to look for include extended warming trends and warm sunny afternoons. These factors can turn up the metabolism of otherwise reluctant bass and may now be triggered by a faster moving bait.
Later on in the season more and more fish will show up on deeper structure like underwater points, rocky humps, breaks and weedlines. Deep points, humps, and breaks can be scanned for fish with a good graph, like the Humminbird 1197 which can save you valuable fishing time. Instead of wasting time fishing where they're not you can keep moving until they start to show up. The 1197 also has Side Imaging which produces a unique and incredible look at what lies below and allows you to quickly and more thoroughly scan potential hot spots.
Deep weedlines really have to be worked to know if fish are present and can be a slow process. One of the shortcuts is to look for the greenest, thickest, bunch of weeds you can find. Hard bottom areas will support healthy weeds longer than a soft bottom. A good fall technique for working deep weedlines involves casting a pig and plastic into the weeds and slowly crawling it out to the edge. During this process try to envision just exactly what is going on and keep an eye on the line. Many times you'll not feel the strike but will see a twitch in the line, or it may move off to the side; Time to set the hook.
The fall season can provide some exceptional angling opportunities, especially if you're into hooking big, anlauf.hfat, bucketmouths. If so; you're timing couldn't be better. See you on the water.