Some of the coolest weather all summer has hit us, and this gets me to thinking about fall fishing. A ways off yet is my annual trek to Lake of the Woods with my friend, Pete Wolney.
In the more immediate future, I plan to target largemouth bass (maybe, smallmouth, too). To that end, I offer a few tips that could lead to some nice catches of bass for you:
1. Bigger is better when it comes to baits. Now’s the time to use oversized spinnerbaits and plastics. I heave hefty stuff this time of year and the bass seem to like it. In fact, I have talked to muskie anglers over the years and they say they catch big bass on their muskie baits. So, don’t be afraid to bulk up on the end of your line.
2. Follow the weeds. The thick growth of vegetation you saw in July and August is thinning out now. And, a lot of it is turning brown, which means it’s dying. A key thing to know is that dying weeds do not hold fish. So, look for the thickest, greenest weeds you can find. It may take some driving around, but, once you find it, you should also find bass.
3. Afternoon delight. Lots of people get up early in the morning to chase bass. That is not so necessary in the fall. In fact, afternoons can often be best, especially later in the fall when the water cools down. I’ve had numerous occasions where I caught little to nothing in the morning and early afternoon, then the fish started biting later in the afternoon. So, don’t be in a hurry to get on the water in the morning, and don’t be in a hurry to leave later in the day.
4. Get ready for lunkers. What they say about fish running bigger in the fall is definitely true. I’ll catch an occasional small bass, but not nearly as many as I do during the summer. In fact, at times the smaller fish seem to disappear. What I find very interesting is that I catch very few fish between about 14 and 17 inches in the fall. Mostly, it’s 18-inchers and bigger. That’s fine by me. But, on the flip side, the numbers in the fall don’t seem to be nearly as high as in the summer. Not sure why that is. So, don’t be surprised if you experience fewer bites, but bigger fish.
5. Think about line visibility. Not only are there fewer weeds, but the algae blooms that so many lakes experience have cleared up by fall. That makes for clearer water and increased visibility for fish, which means they can see your line easier. Fall is a good time to use lighter monofilament and fluorocarbon lines. Because you won’t be wrestling fish out of heavy weed growth, you should be able to get by just fine with lighter line.
6. Shallower isn’t always better. We all hear about how bass go shallow in the fall to seek out the warmest water and to find food. They definitely utilize the shallows, but not to the exclusion of deep water. I have had consistent success fishing deeper water in the fall. Sometimes, I do better deep than shallow. In fact, there have been outings when I didn’t catch anything shallow. A few years ago, I pounded shallow water on Lake Calhoun without getting a bite. Then, I went out to about 15 feet and caught several 19-inchers and had some more bites. If you have deep water spots that have produced for you in the summer, try them in the fall. You may catch fish — and big ones — in these areas.
7. Take your camera. If you are fortunate enough to time your trip with the turning of the leaves, you will have a beautiful — even, spectacular — backdrop for your photos. A few years ago, I brought a friend out and he caught a nice, 40-inch muskie on a spinnerbait. The trees on the shoreline were turning, and I got a gorgeous shot of him holding his fish with the fall colors behind him. If you have the flexibility, get out there on a nice Indian Summer day and enjoy both the fall colors and the fall bass.