We are into fall fishing, and it’s a time when I’ve found success to swing from one extreme to the other.
The structure fishing that dominates much of the summer patterns in many of our fisheries now becomes “spotty” as bass shift their habits to shallower water. This means that shallow patterns can produce good catches while at the same time, bass holding on to their summer haunts can still make for good fishing.
To give you an idea of this variance, my two best catches ever in Minnesota occurred during early fall fishing. The one catch (Six fish that weighed 27 pounds, 11 ounces) came from water less than three feet deep. The other catch (Five fish that weighed 25.05 pounds) all came from depths greater than 13 feet.
However, not all fishing during autumn produces these kinds of results. In fact, I’ve found it to be extremely challenging, especially on some of the southern reservoirs that I’ve visited. Anglers can be very susceptible to poor fishing because bass tend to scatter. Are they shallow or deep? The answer is both. And not only that… sometimes they’re in between on the flats!
I find that patterns that are productive one day, produce nothing the next. Weather changes can have profound effective on bass behavior and location during this period. It is much harder to focus on just one pattern that remains consistent from day to day.
So what are some indicators that might tip off the best depth to key in on a given fall day? Obviously, the presence of baitfish is a key factor in the fall as it is at all times. On fisheries supporting populations of shad, a main forage for bass, their presence certainly indicates the subsequent presence of bass. I’ve often witnessed bass schooling on these shad in the fall.
Another indicator is the weather. I like the shallow water when the weather has been experiencing a warming trend. In fact, my best fishing has occurred under such circumstances. Especially look for sunny afternoons where some really hot flippin’ and pitchin’ occurs up shallow. That is how I caught the 27-11 catch noted above. Those bass that day were wadded up in a 25-yard stretch of emergent cane and cattails.
Conversely, if the weather is cool and cold, then the fishing can be trickier. Under chilly conditions, more often than not, I’ve experienced “spotty” shallow fishing success. More consistent fishing can be found by backing off the shallows and searching the flats. Also look over some of the deeper haunts. These areas undergo less change because of falling water temperatures as seen in the shallows, and offer a more stable environment.
One welcoming bit of relief this time of year is the reduction in recreational traffic on the lakes. With schools in session and family vacations minimal, oftentimes I’ll find myself as the only occupant of several thousand acres of water. How lucky! Just me, my Ranger boat, and the marvel of fall fishing.
Fall bass fishing can provide some excellent catches, but it can be hard to anticipate their behavior from one day to the next. Remember that lingering summer patterns may still provide some good catches, while at the same time excellent shallow fishing may be available as well.
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Jim Moynagh writes a twice-monthly bass fishing column on sportsmansguide.com. Visit Jim on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sportsmansguide?v=app_6009294086&ref=ts#!/pages/Jim-Moynagh/167413610047622?fref=ts He is a FLW touring pro, and a former Forrest Wood Open Champion with multiple top 10 finishes. In 2012, he finished in fourth place for Angler of the Year honors. He also finished in fourth place two-straight times in FLW events in 2012. His expertise is deep-water structure fishing for large and smallmouth bass. Jim’s sponsors include M&M’s, All-Terrain Tackle, Chevy Trucks, and Ranger Boats.