UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Santee Cooper

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Making a Case for Fall Fishing

Making a Case for Fall Fishing

(Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the 2017 August/September issue of FLW Bass Fishing magazine. To read more compelling articles from FLW Bass Fishing magazine each month, become an FLW subscriber member.)


Last fall I spent more days on freshwater lakes than I have in a long time. In the months of September, October and November I covered several bass fishing events, including the two FLW Tour Invitationals. Being on lakes in autumn again reminded me just how much of a blank slate bass fishing is during the latter part of the calendar year.

I know, I know: Springtime is fishing season, and fall is hunting season. Sometime around August, boats go in the garage and the deer stands come out. It’s a common cycle for those who love the outdoors. I get it. And yes, I’m well aware that springtime is when “the big ones move up,” and that’s good for the tournament business.

In recent years, national bass circuits and tours have become very spring-centric. The number of events jammed in between February and June is large, and the tendency is to “chase the spawn” northward through the country with the warming months.

As a result, patterns and story lines become a bit repetitive: prespawn, spawn, postspawn … prespawn, spawn, postspawn … repeat.

Those few fall events I attended last year offered a refreshing break from that February-through-June cycle.

Were there “giants” caught?

Not really.

Was the fishing “tougher” than it was in mid-April?

Sure it was.

Yet fishing in the fall allowed other techniques to shine, other anglers to shine and most of all it helped shed some light on a part of the year that we in the bass fishing world know less about than the same old springtime spawn tune.

With that, I contend that bass fishing in the fall is cool – literally. If you’re getting ready to put your fishing tackle away for the “off-season,” here are a few good reasons to keep it close at hand.

 

All-Day Topwaters

Who doesn’t like topwater fishing, right?

Last fall I was reminded of just how well topwaters work when things start cooling down. Surface favorites such as buzz baits and walking baits work all day long. Just ask James Watson, who won the Norris Invitational buzzing Whopper Ploppers all day.

 In grass lakes, summer vegetation growth has peaked and started to wane, creating that perfect window for hollow-bodied frogs.

If topwater is your thing, fall is prime time to tickle the top.

 

Spinnerbait Revival

Whatever happened to the spinnerbait? It was a staple in bass fishing 30 years ago, but now it’s pretty much relegated to making an occasional appearance during the shad spawn.

Perhaps one reason is that most tournaments are now in the spring, when vibrating and swim jigs are better mousetraps than the old spinnerbait.

Fall and spinnerbaits go together like gold and King Midas. When the water cools and shad schools start migrating back into shallow ditches and pockets, a spinnerbait really shines. I had to chuckle last fall when some pros at tournaments were scrambling to borrow spinnerbaits from their buddies because they didn’t even have any in their boats! 

Yes, topwater is fun, but so is watching two fluttering willow-leaf blades disappear into a dark boil just beneath the surface. That’s a special fall bite.

 

Fall is the Final Frontier

With so many tournaments in the spring, we all know what bass do during the bulk of the competition season. Every step of the spring migration has been documented multiple times at multiple tournaments. The question is, where do all those bass go during the fall?

Compared to the spring, there are still many fall fishing mysteries left to be unlocked. Fall bass behaviors such as wolf-packing, false spawns and pelagic-like roaming are still relative unknowns compared to the spawning cycle.

 

The Best Time to Learn a Lake

If you want to gather the most intel about how a lake is laid out and where the subtle fish-holding features are located, there is no better time to learn than in the fall. This is especially true on lakes that have winter drawdowns – or better yet, grass lakes with winter drawdowns. Once summer grass growth has peaked and the first couple feet of water have been drawn down, you can read exactly how ditches, depressions, potholes and ridges wind through a flat. In rocky impoundments, winter drawdowns mean seeing bottom composition, rock seams, transitions, brush piles and exposed points. Also, the water is usually clearest in the fall, allowing anglers to find things they might otherwise not be able to see. If you want to load your GPS with subtle spots to fish in the spring, fall is the time to do it.

 

The Colors of Cool

To a fisherman, the blooming of dogwoods in spring is indeed a beautiful sight to behold. But I still say there is nothing as visually dramatic as vivid fall color on a lake. Whether it’s the deep rusty reds of cypress in the lowland backwaters or brilliant oranges and golds of upland deciduous trees, fishing with that as your background is awe-inspiring. Add to that the refreshing feeling of crisp, cool air, and fall on the water becomes a rejuvenating experience.

 

Less Pressure

“Man, there was a boat on every spot I tried to fish.”

This has become the common refrain of tournament anglers and weekend warriors alike when trying to fish March through May. In the spring, 80 percent of the fish are in 20 percent of the water, and 80 percent of the fishermen are in 20 percent of the water, too.

Here’s the cure: Go in October or November.

If there’s one reason alone to launch your boat for a taste of autumn fishing, it’s that you can have the lake to yourself – well, mostly to yourself, anyway.

I’m convinced that bass have an inherent sense of how much human pressure is being applied to lakes. Whether it’s the wildcat derbies every night of the week or the recreational boaters ripping up and down the lake, bass tuck themselves away from the hustle and bustle in spring and summer. When the lake goes quiet again in the off-season, they know it’s safe to come out, roam and eat.

So you have a quiet, colorful lake practically all to yourself. You can fish any water you want with moving baits again, and while you’re covering water you might discover a few more subtle, sneaky spots you can use in the spring. Autumn fishing is right around the corner – go and enjoy it.

Tags: rob-newell  article 

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