Chasing Fall Bass
The Best Deadly Baits
by Bruce Callis
The weather is starting to cool down and the night time temperatures are starting to finally get into the lower 50s and lower at times, and the heat of the summer is but a memory. The cooler water temperatures have the bass starting to move from their summer haunts and are more actively feeding up for the winter. But that doesn’t mean that the fishing turns into a slug fest. The bass become more scattered in the main lake areas. But find the baitfish and the bass will be close by.
In general, fall shad movements are fairly predictable and do offer an opportunity to find actively feeding bass. The shad will be moving into smaller areas in the creeks and coves. Bass are ambush feeders, so find the ambush points and as the schools of shad move through, the bass will light then up. Sounds so simple, but remember, the bass aren’t going to just make it easy.
I always know when to start my move to the fall pattern, as it’s usually Homecoming at church. and the day I get another year older. The middle of September is usually the time to start hitting the bank and shallows for those hungry bass. But what baits work?
Topwater baits really come into play as the water cools. Depending on what you are fishing, I break it into 3 selections. For covering a lot of water, nothing beats a good buzzbait. You can work it down a bank, around grass and lily pads, and over so much more. For a weedless bait, I love the SPRO Bronzeeye Frog. This will allow you to cover lily pads, standing grass, and if you are good, skip it up under low lying branches and docks. For more open water, I like the new SPRO E Pop 80. It can pop and walk the dog, which makes it really deadly. I’ll work it down the bank, around the edges of the lily pads and over the grass and laydowns. The hits can be very violent and get the heart rate rising. Depending on whether you are covering water or working specific targets, these will draw the bass out.
The lipless crankbait has always been one of my favorite baits. I fish it year round and it can be deadly on the bass. During the fall it is a great search bait for those schools of bass roaming around and feeding up. I use 2 types to accomplish this. The SPRO Aruku Shad has been my favorite and has produced some mighty big bass in the fall for me. The other is the SPRO Wameku Shad. The design of the bait is so that it actually runs shallower. I use the lipless to cover the flats where the bass are. Try to match the size of the baitfish as much as possible.
One of the first baits I fell in love with is the spinnerbait. You can fish it year round, and it produces. Like the lipless, it is a great search bait. But while the lipless pretty much will run under the bass, the spinnerbait will run higher in the water column. It also can be used in the shallows around the bank or dissect a laydown. Make long casts down the bank and work it back, keeping it running just under the surface. You can work it through sparse lily pads and over grass beds in the shallow water.
One thing I was never good at was a crankbait. I was scared of getting them hung up in so many things. I would question the pros at the Expos, find out tricks, and listen to everything. The best advice I got was from John Crews. You gotta use them and not be afraid. Simply put, as with anything, you need to learn to make them work for you. It is surprising just how easy they can come through a lot of wood and grass. I have 2 choices that I like to work the flats and shoreline with. The first is the Fat John 50. It has an erratic hunting action and runs to 2 feet deep. The other is the Fat John 60, as it runs 3-5 feet deep. They make for a deadly combination. Work them down the shoreline, letting them bump into any and everything. The trick is to not over retrieve them. They are not made to be burned, as it is then that you can easily get them hung into any and everything.
Jigs and soft plastics are great right now too, but they are more target baits. I’m not saying you can’t use them as a search tool, but it is slower. I like to use a couple different setups for soft plastic. A weightless Texas rigged stick worm like the Senko or Missile Baits 48 can be deadly. I have caught tons of bass that way. Also, wacky rigging both works great too. Rigging them with a 1/8 or 3/16 ounce WOO Tungeston Never Chip weight is also deadly. Throw them all up in the shallows and work them back slowly, but be ready for the hard strikes. Another option is quite easy to fish. Some call it the Neko Rig, some call it a stupid rig as it is so easy to use and catch fish with it is stupid. Take a Missile Baits 6.5 Quiver or other worm and put a nail weight in the nose. Put an O ring on the worm about an inch or two above the head. And the hook can be a Gamakatsu weedless stinger hook, a stinger hook or even a wacky rig hook. I fish it on a Quantum spinning reel and lighter line, Seaguar braid with fluorocarbon leader. The secret is to let it fall to the bottom and then to hop or drag it back to you. You really need to pay attention to your line while doing this, as they will take it and run with it. Use a sweeping hookset and hang on.
These are some of my favorite fall baits, hopefully they will help you find some monster bass just as they have me. Don’t be afraid to experiment with them and have fun doing it. You just may find something special that will help you up your game. Just be sure to have your Line Cutterz ring handy for changing baits and to put Reelsnot on your line to keep it conditioned and stay ahead of your competition. And wear your PFD while on the water. Live to fish another day!