Versatility at a Premium For Fall Largemouths

Looking back on all of the fall fishing I’ve done over the years in Minnesota’s natural lakes, I realize a lack of consistency and patterns for success when it comes to largemouths.

Sure I’ve won tournaments, but I’ve also had very poor outings as well. Even on a lake where I’ve spent many days such as Lake Minnetonka near the Twin Cities, I find it hard to pin down a consistent pattern. One day the bass will be on the outside weededges like in midsummer, but the next the day they won’t. Instead, a shallow pattern around docks or lily pads might be the ticket. This flip-flopping of patterns isn’t only limited to the natural lakes of Minnesota because I’ve experienced and witnessed it all throughout bass country.

Jim Moynagh
Jim Moynagh

The inconsistent fishing ties into the changes the lakes experience as summer fades and fall arrives. In other words, the aquatic environment becomes very unsettled this time of year. Extreme fronts start showing up drastically dropping water temperatures, but then again, a hot spell can still come back and swing the temperatures up! Then, of course, the wind tends to blow quite a bit more with these weather swings. Stability in the environment is gone and therefore the bass no longer settle into enduring, predictable patterns. Eventually as the lake’s water temp trends cooler and cooler, it goes through “turnover” — when all temperature stratified layers of water break down. Preferred water temperatures for prey and predator can occur at several depths.

Versatility is Key
So how does an angler cope with this unstable environment and consistently catch bass? Be versatile! The ability to “read” situations and respond with efficient fishing presentations goes a long way when combating fall bass. Sure you want to be versatile throughout the year, but its importance comes more into focus during the fall. Bass can practically be found anywhere from the outside weedline to the shoreline, and a fishermen needs to have mastered the tools to fish anywhere in this zone.

So where do you begin? I say go with your strengths until they fail. What are you best at? If it’s deep crank bait fishing, then begin there. If it’s shallow frog fishing, then try that. Stick with it as long as fish are being caught. It’s very simple really; just don’t get stuck in a rut and try to force your will with one method on the bass. That rarely works.

With natural lakes always consider the health of the aquatic vegetation. Certain species of plants will die-off while others won’t. Bass usually don’t hold in areas undergoing a die-off so look elsewhere. If lush, green plant life can be found, check there instead. For example, milfoil is one plant that dies off in the fall. The thick, brown stands of it still offer shade, but I’d rather fish something such as coontail, which usually still is green and healthy in the fall. Or at least fish the healthiest milfoil that can be found. I’ve also seen where eelgrass holds bass in the fall. This typically is a mid-depth plant.

For me, I like fishing more and more shallow to medium depths as fall progresses. Shoreline plants such as cattails, bulrushes, and lily pads can offer great fishing on those really warm, sunny autumn days. In developed lakes where this cover has been mostly removed, target the docks. Also try weedy, mid-depth flats with healthy weeds. Or look at the inside weedline of these flats. Deep weedlines still may produce, but I’m ready at all times to switch gears. And I’m not going to “die” on any pattern. As a professional fisherman, I carry several rods in my boat no matter the time or place. They’ll be set up with lures to cover all depths.

Try Moving Presentations
With fall, I start utilizing more presentations where the lures are moving such as spinnerbaits, crank baits, buzzbaits, swimbaits, and so on. For reasons I don’t understand, bass respond to moving baits when the water is cooler. This doesn’t mean I completely abandon my jigs and bottom-crawling soft plastics, but they no longer dominate my lure selection like in midsummer.

A basic line-up for lure selection might look like this when fishing natural lakes in fall: 1) For deep weedlines, first I like a deep-diving crank bait, but will still use an All-Terrain Football jig or Carolina-rig as backup; 2) A medium-running crank bait such as a Salmo Boxer or Hornet, or a 1/2-ounce spinnerbait for the weed flats; 3) A frog or buzzbait for lilypads and weed mats, and; 4) All-Terrain jig for flipping the same shallow weeds and also docks.

Fall fishing requires more versatility than other periods of the fishing season. Realize this and be ready for it. Aquatic environments experience upheaval during this time as the seasons change. And you can expect the same with the fishing patterns from one day to the next.

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