Late Season Bass Tactics
By Scott M. Petersen
For many fishermen, bass fishing season ends right after Labor Day. On the other hand, diehard bass fishermen know that some of the best bass fishing of the year will follow.
As the cool nights start to turn the leaves different colors, the cool nip in the air will signal that a change is happening. The shorter days of sunlight will start to drop the water temperature that the lake has held all summer long. Following the downward mark of the water temperature will come fall turnover. The cooling upper layer of water will become heavier than the water underneath, causing it to sink, pushing the warmer water to the surface. This marks the start of the fall turnover event. The process will generally last about ten to fourteen days depending on weather conditions during that time period.
If you want to take advantage of these different stages you have to pay attention to what is going on with the lake and the bass. Before fall turnover started, bass could feel the change of the falling lake temperature and started to hit the shallows to take advantage of the abundant food sources making the shift and put on the feed bag to fatten up for the upcoming winter period that will start in about two months. Almost all of the lake's fish population will be drawn towards the shallows during the early fall months to get ready for the upcoming changes. When the bass hit the shallows they will be looking for a shallow food source, bluegills and craws will pretty much fill this bill as they did in the deeper water depths during the summer months. In early fall, frogs making their way back to the lakes to hibernate will take center stage for a few weeks. During the first few weeks of the fall period bass will be on the roam and you will have to cover water to stay with them. For these times you should throw a lot of baits like shallow cranks, traps and spinner baits. All these baits get a lot of water time the first month or so.
After turnover, fish will move into deeper water, so deep diving crank baits and jig-n-pig combos come into play.
Shallow Crank Baits
Shallow and mid depth cranks are the two that will get the most attention in the early part of the fall season when the bass are making their way into the shallows. Rapala's DT Fats 1 and 3, Storms Sub Wart and Mid Warts are perfect bait to have on your line at this time of the season. Long casts and making contact with the weeds is key to getting and triggering bites. You want a bait that will just tick the weeds on the retrieve and not get hung up, so pick your baits to fit the depth of water you are fishing. Shallow cranks are a great choice to imitate bluegills and craws swimming around in the shallows at this time of the season.
Traps and Spinner Baits
These two baits fall almost into the same class. These bait choices shine when the bass are located on the weed flats. Along with the shallow cranks, traps and spinner baits excel in getting bites when they are making contact with the weeds. Spinner baits will be easier to work when the weeds are thicker but if the weeds are sparse it seems the trap will perform better as the action of the bait is more erratic.
Let's start with spinner baits. For the fall I make a few modifications to my baits. For one, I use a trailer. I generally use a twister tail for this or I will use a Bass Pro Cajun Trailer. This bulks up the bait, allowing you to be able to work it slower. Many times I will use a double willow combination instead of a single Colorado bladed bait. This again is a speed factor. I can work the double willow slower than I can a Colorado bladed bait, which keeps it in the bass zone longer.
If it is traps I am fishing, I will generally use them in a little deeper water out on the flats, targeting more of the weed clumps than the solid weeds. Making weed contact is more critical when fishing the trap than it is when I am fishing shallow cranks or the spinner bait. Part of what makes the bass attack this bait is when it is ripped it off of the weeds. I feel this is what triggers many of the strike. I make my cast and start to reel the trap back to the boat, when the bait makes contact with the weeds I give the rod a good pull to break the bait free of the weeds and get it on its way again. This is generally the time that I will get the strike. This pattern of fishing is triggered by a delicate balance. If I am in too thick of weeds I will not be able to fish the trap properly, getting hung up all the time. On the other side of the coin, if I am not making contact with the weeds I do not have the trigger to get many bites.
All three of these baits make great choices before fall turnover when the weeds are still alive and green. After fall turnover the lakes shallow weeds will start to die off, pushing the bass and the major population of fish deeper. When this change takes place you will again have to move with the bass to catch them. For this you will need to reload and make adjustments. The key now will be deeper green weeds on the deep flats and on the edges. When we get to this time of the year we are talking schools of bass again not a bass here or there like we were fishing in the early part of the fall season.
Deep green weeds are key at this time of the season and will fast become the attraction of later fall bass. These deeper green weeds will still be giving off oxygen, attracting not only bass but other game fish as well. To find these green weeds you cannot beat a deeper diving crank bait.
Deep Crank Baits
For this tactic I will use a Storm Magnum Wiggle Wart or a Bomber Fat Free Shad. Both of these baits have wide wobble actions and will shed the weeds better than other baits when fishing this tactic. The keys to fishing these baits during the fall bite is boat position and making pin point casts to the weed edge. Just as in fishing a trap, you have to make contact with the weeds with your crank bait. Boat position will play a big part of having your crank bait just tick the weeds or getting it hung up. Position your boat out far enough to be able to cast to the weed edge and not too far on top of the weeds. When you feel the bait tick the weeds, give the rod a good pull like you are setting the hook so as to get the bait on its way again. This is generally when you will get the bites.
Once I have found a few active bass with the cranks I will change to a jig combination to take the rest of the bass that I can get to bite. There is something about fall and a jig that just seem to go together. It has been stated many times that if you are looking for one bait to fish during the late fall months it has to be a jig. I fully agree with that statement. Now, do not get me wrong. There will be days that you will catch bass on the deep crank bait tactic I just covered but when one adds up all the numbers at the end of the season the jig will have caught more bass than the crank bait did.
When it comes to jig sizes you will have to carry a few different sizes to fit the fishing conditions. The main sizes of Outkast Jigs that I carry are 3/8, 1/2 and 3/4 ounce. I use 3/8 ounce when fishing in calmer wind conditions or when the bite gets tough. I would say that for the majority of my fall bass fishing I use a 1/2 ounce Pro Staff Outkast Jig. For high wind conditions I use a 3/4 ounce Pro Staff Outkast Jig.
For the pig part of the jig I always carry a few different options to play with and I let the bass tell me what they want. Outkast Chunks, Craws and Fat Tail Grubs pretty much fill out what I take and use during the fall months. I will generally start with the Outkast Chuck and switch from there until I find what the bass want for the day.
If you are looking for a sleeper bait to use at the end of the season try a Texas rigged tube or tube craw presentation. I feel that when the bass get touchy and have a tendency to spit out a jig before you can get a good hook set, it is time to put down the jig and pick up the Texas rigged tube. When the bass pick up the tube and bite down they do not seem to drop this bait as fast, allowing a good hook set. I feel this is due to one factor that when they bite down on the tube it makes the bass think it is something real, thus giving extra time to set the hook.
Do not give up on bass too early next fall. Some of the best bass fishing of the year is still to come. Shallow cranks, spinner baits and traps will fill the bass fishing bill before turnover. After deep cranks and jig-n-pig combos will be what take the bass later into the late fall season. Green weeds will play a big part on locating bass at this time of the season so pay attention to what conditions the weeds are in that you are fishing. If you have not fished for late season bass before, you may be surprised at how great the late season bass fishing is.
Create some memories, but please practice CPR (Catch. Photo and Release). The future of fishing is in your hands.
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