Shallow Water Bassin' for Fast Fall Action
By Tom Redington
September through November on Lake Fork and other impoundments with good shad populations consistently produce some of the fastest action of the year. While spring bassin' yields more trophy bass, numbers of bass caught daily usually is at its zenith in the fall.
While deep water produces a lot of good fish in the fall, I typically focus on the shallows early and late each day and stay shallow all day if the weather is breezy and/or cloudy. Bass key on shad in the fall and they'll follow these baitfish all the way to the very backs of creeks. Typically, if you find areas with a lot of baitfish, the bass will be nearby. Bass move daily following the concentrations of shad and fish, so your best fishing areas will change regularly throughout the fall. Essentially, I cover lots of water with moving baits until I start getting bit, then slow down and thoroughly work the area over, trying multiple baits once a school is located. Most bass key on small 1.5- to 4-inch threadfin shad on Fork in the fall, so I mainly use smaller baits, even when I'm fishing for big bass.
For locating fish fast, spinnerbaits, topwaters, swimbaits, and crankbaits work best. Choose shad color schemes, primarily whites and chromes, and work these baits fast with erratic stop and go retrieves to trigger strikes from active fish. ¼ and 3/8-ounce spinnerbaits with white or chartreuse and white skirts and tandem silver willow leaf blades work well for me. For topwaters, small poppers worked quickly across the top with a spitting action or steadily walking small Zara Spooks or Sammys deliver some exciting strikes. Around wood cover or over the tops of grass, chrome ¼- to ½-ounce lipless crankbaits and shad colored crankbaits that run 8 feet or less work great as well. I'll start with a wide wobbling crankbait in the early fall, then go to a more subtle crankbait with a tighter wiggle in the later fall as the water cools. My latest favorite is Lake Fork Tackle's new Live Magic Shad in the 3.5- or 4.5-inch version. Rigged on a wide gap hook with a small 1/16th ounce weight, I swim these over grass flats, occasionally dropping my bait into holes in the grass. These baits will not only produce lots of fish, but also catch some of the biggest fish in the fall.
Once a school is located with moving baits and the action slows, switch to soft plastics and you'll likely catch more fish from the same area, possibly a lot more. My favorite soft plastic rigs for the fall are wacky rigs and weightless soft plastic jerkbaits. For the wacky rig, I use a watermelon Twitch Worm on sunny days and a June bug colored one on cloudy days, rigged on 10 to 15 pound P-Line fluorocarbon line with a small weight inserted into the worm. My favorite soft plastic jerkbait for the fall is a Magic Shad rigged weightless Texas style in either the "Magic Shad" or watermelon/red flake color. Some days the bass will chase these as they are steadily twitched over the grass, while other times you'll do best by twitching your bait a couple times and then letting it fall to the bottom. In areas with lots of stumps and little grass or along the inside and outside weedlines, a shaky head worm or a light Carolina rig will also do well. For the shaky head worm, I use Lake Fork Tackle's 1/8 ounce Screw-Ball jig head with a watermelon or green pumpkin twitch worm and drag or hop it along the shallows with 8- to 10-pound fluorocarbon line. My light Carolina rig consists of a ¼ ounce sinker that is rigged 12- to 18-inches above a Magic Shad, Twitch Worm, or Baby Fork Creature. Slowly fish this along the edge of the grass on points with 12- to 15-pound P-Line fluorocarbon and you'll consistently put big fish in the boat on the toughest of days. Finally, for lunker bass in the shallows during the fall, pitch ½ ounce Mega Weight jigs to heavy timber along creek channels in the back ½ of creeks. I like Blue Bruiser colored jigs on cloudy days and watermelon jigs on sunny days, trimmed with a matching Lake Fork Craw trailer. Key on stumps and laydowns in the bends of creek channels and make multiple pitches to each piece of wood.
While your buddies leave for the woods to go hunting this fall, head to the shallows on Lake Fork and you'll likely have a day to remember. Here's hoping you catch the lunker of your dreams. If I can be of assistance, please contact me at 214-683-9572 (days) or 972-635-6027 (evenings) or e-mail me through my website, www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com.
Tom Redington is a full time bass guide on Lake Fork and is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Diamond Sports Marine, Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Minn Kota, Humminbird, and P-Line Fishing Lines.