The Baits to Find the Bass This Fall
by Bruce Callis Jr
It finally feels like fall is in the air. The cooler days and nights mixed with a little rain has been a welcome feeling for us anglers. It is also a welcome sight for the hunters that are making their way into the woods for a little fun. For some of us, we are happy for both reasons. And the bass are ready to start feeding up for winter.
I got my first taste of fall this past Saturday morning as it started off in the high 40s. I also got my first taste of slot limit fishing on the James River. And my first taste of smallmouth bass. I can live with the cooler weather, as they make clothing to stay warm. I can understand the need for a slot limit to help a fishery grow. I can not understand the need to make it so low. And having hooked into my first smallmouth and then losing it, now has turned into an obsession. I’ll be going back to find more!
Fall is one of my favorite seasons. Winter is my favorite by far, but that is for another time. When those big bass that have been hiding in the deep haunts of summer make their way up shallow and start to actively chase baitfish, the chance to catch a personal best is right at hand. Baits that have been resting in our toolbox collecting dust are now prime choices. And topwater starts to become prime again. What isn’t there to like?
One of my favorite fall baits is the spinnerbait. It allows you to cover a lot of water and a variety of depths. I just got back from an adventure with my buddy Tim, who always gives me a run for my money. We hit up a local Wildlife Refugee and found the water to be in the low 70s all day. The cooler air temperature and overcast skies made a perfect day for fishing. We started out hitting the shallows with a variety of baits, baits that we had confidence in, a shallow running crankbait, a Senko, jigs, and soft plastics. While they normally produce, this day was different. I then took out the Death Shimmer spinnerbait and started to hit around the lily pads and all the laydowns. It didn’t take long to find legal, meaning 13” and above, bass. It didn’t take long for me to jump ahead, catching 6 bass up to 3 pounds before Tim finally caught his first bass on a jig.
The spinnerbait has become an overlooked bait by so many. The market is flooded by so many different brands and by local builders. And they have become truly a fine choice as to design and look. Long gone are the days of just a simple spinnerbait like Hank Parker rode to victory in the Classic. Tim managed to catch an almost 8 pound bass, on a spinnerbait that day. But like so many, it isn’t a bait that they use and catch bass on regularly. It has been one of my favorites since I first tied one on over 40 years ago.
The shallow running crankbait, something I use to love to hate, is also one of those baits that is made for the fall. I never was any good with these baits, but then I started to listen to and talk with John Crews, the man behind the SPRO Little John series of baits. He explained the difference between the different baits and shapes. He helped me to understand how to work them, where to work them, and to not be afraid to throw them in certain areas. I am still not great with them, but I have a lot of confidence in them. Work them up shallow, around laydowns and even in them. One of my favorites this time of year is the Fat John 60. The tight wobble is a sure fire fish exciter. It is always tied onto my cranking rod.
Another great fall bait is also my favorite winter baits. The SPRO Aruku Shad can be worked at any depth and any speed. And the new Wameku Shad is a shallow version. These baits are always tied onto my rod. I work them from shore and across the drop offs. Speed and action varies, I let the bass tell me what to do. Chrome with blue back is my go to color, but a black back can be the difference on certain days.
I am always going to have a Wacky rigged worm on and a Texas rigged one too. I am going to have a Texas rigged creature bait on, like a Power Team Lures Mauler or a Missile Baits DBomb. And a jig is a must to also have tied on. Flipping and pitching around the wood and grass is one of my favorite things to do.
Topwater is also one of those baits I am going to have tied on. Actually, I will have to different types tied on. One rod is going to have a SPRO Bronze Eye frog tied on with 60 lb Seaguar Smackdown braid. The other is a walking bait. I love poppers, but a walking bait has always been my favorite. It took me a while to learn to use it properly, but it can outshine so many times. A Heddon Zara Spook Jr in chrome has been my go to bait. There are times when the popper can outshine it, so I have one ready to switch out if needed. Go with which ever you have more confidence in.
While the list is just a start, it gives a glance into what you need to be using. For a beginner, the idea is to be diverse and to not overlook baits just because it isn’t as popular. The chatterbait has replaced the spinnerbait in so many anglers tackle box. So many are afraid to use crankbaits, not because they can’t use them, but because they don’t confidence in them. Now is the time when you can pick up a bait and gain confidence in it. Just remember, confidence is built by using a bait, catching will come, so don’t give up too quickly on any bait. Change the color, change the action, and change your understanding of the bait.
What is that one bait you have confidence in to catch bass in the fall? Leave a comment below and let me know.