Michigan’s Kevin VanDam needs no introduction in bass fishing, as he's widely considered the best to ever compete as a professional angler. But, even "KVD" has challenges during one of the most brutal months of the year for bass fishing. September can be challenging to catch bass because it's a time of year that's caught in the transition between summer and fall, and they can be spread throughout the water column.
"September is typically a very tough time to fish, especially in southern states where the water is still hot," he said. "Overall, it's a super tough time to go fishing, but the one caveat is if you fish a lake with a lot of grass because it can help keep fish confined and easier to target."
VanDam says things, in general, are challenging because the fish are caught between different patterns.
“All in all, it can be challenging because the fish are just starting to transition into a fall pattern,” he said. “The biggest keys this time of year are to look for places where baitfish, primarily shad, are because that’s what they are keyed in on. If you can get a good window with some rain, maybe remnants of a tropical depression, you can find good fishing because it will suck those baitfish back into creeks and pockets and get a jumpstart on the good fall fishing.”
Of all the different lures available, VanDam narrowed it down to his Top 5 for September.
The jerkbait was historically known as a cold water and pre-spawn lure, but it’s become something that works all year long as more bass anglers are learning to use them in warmer water. VanDam has always been a fan of them year-round and says they work wonders in September.
"This is a time of year when the bass have been pressured all summer and seen many lures, but a jerkbait is something that still gets fish to bite when they are in a negative or neutral mood,” he said. “I can fish one offshore around points or for suspended fish or closer to shore around docks and get bites. It’s something I have a ton of confidence in.”
A Small Squarebill Crankbait
The squarebill crankbait is a good choice for many months, but VanDam says it’s perfect for September fishing. Instead of standard-sized baits, he downsizes to a Strike King KVD 1.0.
"Many of the baitfish are very small this time of year and that 1.0 has a subtle profile and gets more bites, even more than a 1.5 size bait," he said. "The smaller profile also does better in tough conditions, and big bass will still bite little bitty baits."
VanDam likes to fish the bait around shallow cover but says water clarity is just as important. “You’ll always do better with a squarebill if you can find some stained water in the backs of creeks,” he said.
Walking Topwater Baits
Summertime and into the fall is the perfect time for a topwater bait, and it's no surprise that VanDam chose a walking bait like the Strike King Sexy Dawg as one of his most productive baits in September.
“Topwater is always a focal point anytime the water is warm, especially when so many lakes have bass schooled up and eating shad this time of year,” he said. “Some of the best schooling action you can have all year is on topwaters, especially if your lake has spotted bass. They will be roaming main lake points, and you'll catch them early in the morning, but you can fish them all day long on some days."
Like the walking topwater, a buzzbait is tons of fun and very effective in September. VanDam always has one tied on and fishes it primarily in shallow water around cover.
“I like the Strike King Skipping Buzzbait because it was designed especially for skipping under cover,” he said. “It’s great for skipping way back under shallow docks or overhanging trees, but I’ll also fish it around shallow grass.”
VanDam is known for his power-fishing approach and fishing quickly, but he knows there are times when finesse is needed.
"The water is hot, and fishing docks can be excellent this time of year," he said. "They are a sure thing and always hold fish, but the deeper docks are perfect because they have a lot of shade and cooler water for the fish. One of my favorite baits to fish these docks is a lightweight shakey head with a bait like a Strike King Fat Baby Finesse worm.”
He opts for a 1/8 or 3/16-ounce jighead and says the slow fall helps get more bites when fishing is tough. “That subtle fall is deadly at generating bites when bass are lethargic,” he said. “Power fishing is more fun, but sometimes you must do whatever you can to get a bite.”
As a whole, September is a tough month to catch a bass, but there is hope if you stick with some proven baits from one of the best anglers in bass fishing history.
“September’s a tough month because the water has been so hot for so long, but you can still find those little windows,” he said. “Pay attention to the little clues Mother Nature gives you and narrow your baits down to a few proven lure types you have confidence in.”
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