Bass Fishing in the Fall

How to Target Big Fish like a Bass Master

Bass fishing in the fall can be the most productive time of the year, and I find that paying attention to the basics like a bass pro does helps to land the big fish. All it takes is some common sense.

The author with a late season catchHow To Bass Fish
Like many fishermen, I have spent more hours with my nose buried in magazine articles and books than on the water. It seems everyone has a new technique or lure guaranteed to land a trophy fish and make you a bass master. However, after years of trial and error, I've found that all I need to know are the basics to fill my trips with fun and big bass.

If I follow the simple steps, time after time, I can fine-tune my technique to suit the situation. If the water is a bit higher from recent rains, I spend most of my time along the shore where bass find opportunity meals in washed-out insects and crawfish from up-turned mud flats. If it is hot, I target cooler waters. The key is being able to adjust my idea of how to best catch fish with how the fish will best respond.

Let's look at these basics:
  • Structure - Understand where bass hold up, and how they feed in each unique location. In the weeds, bass will sit in ambush waiting for a meal to swim by. In the fall, bass tend to move toward rock structures because these walls, boulders, and rip rap tend to hold heat as well as bait fish. During a particularly hot day, these same fish will move toward cooler water, and tend to gravitate to deeper channels and dock shade.
    bass picture
  • Food - Fall bass are simply eating machines. Winter is coming, and the fish are going through intensive metabolic shifts. To fuel this change, they eat non-stop, and I make sure I am at the head of their table throwing bait for dessert. Shad are the primary bait fish for largemouth and smallmouth bass, but it's not the only meal on the menu. Rock bass, perch, sunfish, and even small pickerel end up as a meal for a hungry top predator like a bass. If I can locate the bait, I know I'm in for a great day.
  • Lures For Bass - It took me a while to learn this, but throwing the same bait cast after cast without results is a waste of time. If I am confident there are bass in the water and they simply aren't biting, then it's time for me to switch baits. Generally, I start with a top-water pork frog in the weeds, and then switch to a Texas-rigged plastic worm to bounce on the bottom. If this doesn't work, a buzzbait will make any stubborn smallmouth come out and strike.When fishing deeper water like a channel, I start with the Texas-rigged worm, and then move to a drop weight jig with a leech or shad on the raised hook. To round out my tackle box, I'll also cast some poppers, rattles, and jerkbaits - it all depends on what the bass are hungry for. To be successful, I trust my instinct and don't give up.
    bass fishing
  • Bass Indicators - I am never without my polarized sunglasses, as these, more than any other tool in my tackle box, help me locate big fish. I look for large sunfish below the surface, as these fish are less shy and tend to congregate with bass. Sometimes I'll get lucky and see the bass for myself. On the surface of the water, I look for bait boils - schools of shad and minnows disturbing the water's surface - that indicates a bass is below and having a feast. I'll tie on a worm and cast just beyond to reel it through- more likely than not, a lunker will take the bait and the fight will be on. There's just nothing like a smallmouth lunging out of the water at the end of my line. When the lake is quiet, I find that it's not difficult to hear a large splash as a bass breaks the water to feast on surface insects, or in some cases, ducklings. When I hear the sound I look to mark the disturbance rings, swing about the electric motor, and begin the hunt. 

Summer may be fading in my part of the world, but that doesn't mean my fishing rods need to be hung up the garage. It's a great time of the year to be on the water, and I know that the bass of a lifetime is just waiting to take my lure the next time I cast.