The transition from Summer to Fall brings about a lot of changes in bass behaviour: location, feeding habits, primary forage and many other details beging to shift as the temperatures start to decline and the days grow shorter. Despite the numerous changes, fall bass fishing is perhaps actually the best season for pure catching and patterning, so long as you've got the right approach. We recently caught up with Monster Fishing Tackle pro Aaron Martens after the final Bassmaster Elite Series event on the Mississippi River and asked him about his game plan for fall bassin'.
If you're not one for reading, checkout the summary video above for his five favorite baits, but for those who want some additional knowledge, check out a more thorough analysis below.
I really like fishing buzzbaits in the fall, well, actually I like to use them anytime fish will eat them, but the most consistent buzzbait bite is typically in the fall. As temperatures get cooler, bass start to migrate up shallower into coves or cuts off the main lake where they gang up on schools of shad. Unlike the summer when you might get a good buzzbait bite for a few hours in the morning, the fall gives you a chance to throw it all day long because bass are more actively feeing on the shad along the shoreline. Gosh, just thinking about it gets me excited. Buzzbaits, for the most part look the same and there's not a whole lot of difference between most widely available models. I almost always use a simple black or white main color and if I want to specifically match some type of baitfish I'll maybe switch to a white with green or blue. Most of my buzzbait fishing in the fall is within a few feet of the shoreline and I want something compact that I can easily place between laydowns and stickups without a lot of extra moving parts. My favorite buzzbait is still the
Baksyn Buzzbait, a Japanese made lure that is really hard to find, because it gets to the surface easy and it has a prop that splashes water like small bait that bass key in on. Another option I've tried a bit is the Strike King winging Sugar Buzz which has a pivoting head - it's weird looking, but I think there's something to it and I really look forward to using it more in a few weeks when the bite gets good. As for trailers, I know a lot of southern anglers take the entire skirt off and thread on a Zoom Horny Toad, but I prefer adding a small swimbait like a 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat or a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper in a color that resembles the baitfish in that body of water.
I'm always looking for any excuse to throw Mr. Froggy and as summer comes to a close there's really no reason to put it down. I'll admit I fish it a lot more in summer, but that's mostly because it's one of the more reliable techniques when it's super hot and the fish aren't biting much of anything else. In fall, yes there a lots of options for topwater, but the frog is still really good and just so much fun. The only difference between summer and fall frog fishing is I tend to be fishing more specific cover than in summer where it's massive grass flats or huge sections of overhanging trees. In fall I'll look for a short section of shoreline with some easy targets like wood, grass lines pushed up against the insides of coves or a section of bank grass. Because the targets are smaller in area, I'm also more willing to fish the frog with a slower cadence, like bobbing it side to side a bit around a laydown or old dock piling. I really don't make any changes to my frog setup from the standard which is a
Strike King KVD Frog or sometimes a Snag Proof Bobby's Perfect Frog - it kinda sounds weird saying I use another person's frog, maybe I need an Aaron frog - anyway, both are really good options and have a lot of cool colors. I'm fishing the frog with 50lb or 65lb Sunline FX2 Braid and I'm sticking with my Shimano Metanium MGL in the 8.5:1 gear ratio. I'm not gonna do too many modifications, I just usually cut the legs down because I like the way it looks and I think it gives the frog a cooler side to side wobble as I walk it.
Punching can be really, really good in the fall, but it's also the season where I make the most specific bait choices to match the activity of crayfish. Not too get too technical, but the first new moon
(Monster addition: September 30th of this year) after the fall equinox brings out adolescent crayfish to start molting where as the truly adult craws are only molting two times a year and not during the fall. As a result, instead of a creature or a punch skirt/craw combo, I use a small, compact 3" craw bait like the Strike King Baby Rage Craw without any skirt or appendages that are often so crucial in the spring and summer. The smaller bait not only provides a better match for the forage, but I'm making a lot more flips looking for active fish. In the summer I may pump the bait several times, pull it to the top of a mat and shake it a bit and then drop it again. In the fall, I'm hitting a lot more targets and a compact craw bait is far more suitable for the speed at which I fish. Colors this time of year are based on the two most prevalent species of crayfish, procambarus which are red/orange and live around clay and Orconectes, a rock dwelling craw that maintains a green/blue look to it. Some other bait options include the Reaction Innovations Smallie Beaver and the bait on the far right in the picture, a Gambler Why Not - that bruised orange is an awesome looking color.
I start getting back to the jerkbait as a primary technique once we start getting close to winter or just have some pretty drastic temperature swings between the morning and middle of the day. Like I mentioned before, as we get into the fall shad overtake most other bait as the top forage option for bass. The true signal for me is once I start seeing condensed balls of bait in the mouths coves and pockets, that means bass are already there or not too far behind. IF you're fishing a lake with spotted bass you should definitely see a strong jerkbait bite even as it turns late fall to winter, but that's another season altogether. For me, there's one jerkbait that hasn't been topped yet and that's a
Megabass Vision 110 or the Vision 110 Racing edition which has a pretty killer action and the colors are sweet. Generally, I like colors that are like a sexy shad or ghost minnow, but sometimes in clear water a translucent bait with some purple or chartreuse will be absolutely killer.
I fish jerkbaits on 10lb Sunline Shooter Fluorocarbon and I don't think you really need to go any lighter than that. Sometimes I'll go to 12lb depending on how deep the bait is runner and how I feel the fish are reacting to the presentation. If you're running shoreline go with the 12lb.
If you couldn't tell by my choices of a frog and buzzbait, I really like fishing topwater in Fall. Personally, I think there's not many things more fun than watching a fish come up and blast a lure off the surface. Your basic topwater walking baits like a
Heddon Super Spook or some newer options like the Strike King KVD Sexy Dawg and the Lucky Craft Gunfish 115 are all going to display a nice side to side walk that you can manipulate based on the reaction of the fish. I'll fish it anywhere I see some surface acitivity or where I graph a lot of bait. The secondary points and the small cuts off the main lake are always a good place to start. I'll fish the walking style topwater lures with 50lb Sunline FX2 Braid again with a Shimano Metanium MGL in the 8.5:1 gear ratio.