GET SKINNY FOR AUTUMN BASS
Techniques for Bruiser Fall Bass in the Shallows
It’s tough to beat fall fishing. This time period means targeting a number of species of game fish in skinny waters, where they chase shad and other schooling pelagic bait fish, in an effort to gain lots of weight before winter’s icy grip takes hold. Bass are one of the best fish to chase at this time, and the shallows are where anglers can routinely run into lots of big bass of all species. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass all move into tight places, following the prey as waters cool, and this great season gets underway. Action at this time can be truly red hot! Here’s how.
Very hot summer waters can slow the activity levels of bass. When water temperatures climb far above what bass typically prefer fishing can get tough in many lakes and rivers. Lots of bass move deep in summer or bury in heavy weeds that offer slightly cooler water, while not hunting a lot. Factors like thermocline, shade, and oxygen levels dictate how bass live and hunt throughout summer.
When the glorious fall season rolls around, air and water temperatures drop, and bass put the feed bag back on again, moving around a lot and hunting actively. Cooling waters speed up the bass’ metabolism, causing them to move more and feed much more often. Bass attempt to bulk up in preparation for the cold months ahead. Because bass are expecting things to cool down at this time of year, cold fronts affect these fish less than at other times of year, creating the perfect conditions for a serious big bass hunt.
*Baitfish & Visual Angling
Many prey species move shallow in fall. Shad and shiners, perch and panfish, ciscoes, herring, chubs and minnows can all be found extremely shallow on most bass waters in the fall, and the bass will be there in pursuit of them. There is no other time of year when greater concentrations of baitfish can be found in skinny water than during fall, and the pro staffers on our guide team and I have lead our charter clients to countless trophies in water depths of only a foot! This is unquestionably some of the most exciting fishing that we’ve ever done in freshwater, one of the best times of year to land monsters, to catch high numbers of bass and other species too, and to experience the rush of seeing the fish we’re casting to, and witnessing savage strikes on and near the surface of clear water!
*Location & Presentation
Baitfish make up the majority of the diet of most fall bass, and lures that mimic baitfish are therefore the best presentation options. Blade baits, spoons, swimbaits, buzzbaits and other top water lures are all great for fall bassin. If you’ve caught many of the regional or national network television shows we’ve done on fall bass fishing over the years, you already know what our favorite lures are. Multi blade willow and hatchet spinnerbaits have always been a top option. These lures have produced more autumn giants for our guide & tournament team, TV co-hosts, and charter clients than anything else, and excel in shallow water.
From a location standpoint, the best bets are usually bays, coves, and creek or river arms of lakes. Irregular banks hold lots of fall bass, although those with a gradual to moderate taper are better than faster sloping varieties. Shelves also hold lots of fish in autumn too. Shallow humps and long points can be great as well, but we’ve won more fall tournaments and circuit championships fishing one type of structure than anything else. Flats are often the most productive of fall bass spots. These autumn fishing gold mines have produced huge numbers of big bass for our pro team and our clients like none other, during this magical time of year.
Stealth is critical for shallow water fall bass fishing. Move into fishing spots slowly and quietly, and use the trolling motor on low speeds only when necessary. Avoid a lot of movement in the boat, and keep noise to a minimum, as big bass in very shallow water can often be more spook than at other time and in other places. Think of shallow water bass fishing as a deer hunt, and try to stalk your prey in silence.
*Get Out There
Autumn bass fishing is a blast! There’s nothing quite like taking to quiet cooling waters as the crowds have abandoned them, to match wits with one of our favorite species. There is nothing like getting out on the water and chasing game fish in the magnificent weather and scenery of autumn, so make sure not to miss it! Get out there…