Ahhhh, fall… The kids are back in school, the temperature is starting to drop along with the leaves on the trees. Oh who am I kidding? It was still close to 100 degrees on the lake today! The bass were still hunkered into their summer patterns, locked up on structure or hiding in the shade and only tempted to the surface at the crack of dawn or late dusk. But fall IS coming, that’s for sure.
Right around the corner is the Holy Grail of bass fishing for me, a time when bass all over go on a feeding frenzy to fatten up for winter. They leave their summer hiding places and go ripping around chasing bait from morning ‘til night. Fall is definitely my happy place!
With air and water temperature dropping, it’s like a switch flipping in bass feeding behavior. All summer long I have watched massive bait balls of shad swimming around in both Clear Lake and Lake Mendocino with not a bass in sight, but not for much longer. In the fall, the bass will move into a much more aggressive feeding pattern, ambushing and blasting apart those unlucky baitfish when and wherever possible. The tricky part of having so much bait in the water is making your lure the most enticing thing the bass sees by going faster, deeper and/or bigger. You have to stand out in the crowd!
When it comes to lures for the fall, there are quite a few to choose from so I have narrowed the list down to my four favorites. You can throw all four of these baits throughout the year but fall is when they really can put a bunch of quality fish in your kayak.
Lipless Crankbaits – If you know me or have read any of my other articles, you already know that lipless crankbaits are one of my all-time favorite lures. In the fall, the bass are looking to chase so I will burn lures like the Spro Aruku Shad and the Strike King Red Eye Shad across grass flats and across points, occasionally pausing to let it flutter down like it’s in distress. This technique really works well if you are lucky enough to see a bait ball in casting distance. Cast over it, burn right into it and pause so the lure falls down out of the ball to the bass waiting below.
Rip and Jerk Baits – Another one of my fall favorites, rip and jerk baits drive bass bananas with their erratic slashing action. To make them even more enticing, you can go a bit bolder instead of subtle with color patterns. Again, the idea here is to make your bait stand out in the crowd of baitfish. Another key with rip and jerk baits is to go deeper. Most shallow-billed baits run 3 to 5 feet deep but this time of year you should also try some deep-lipped baits like the Berkley Cutter and the Spro McRip that will run down to 8 feet or more and get under the schooling bass closer to where the big boys are lurking.
Spinnerbaits – Like my friend the lipless crank, spinnerbaits are best in the fall when they are burned through the water. This is the time of year to leave those Colorado blade spinnerbaits in the tacklebox and run baits with smaller willow blades. The speed and flash of the willow blades outweighs the thump of the slower Colorado blade baits. Again, like the lipless, spinnerbaits like the Strike King Burner make great search baits to hunt out where the bass might be staging to make their ambush. I also always run a trailer hook on my spinnerbaits, like a Gamakatsu 3/0 Siwash, to make sure that I button up any fish that short strike the bait.
Swim Baits – All around Clear Lake right now, anglers are sharpening their hooks on some of the biggest baits in their boxes. Fall is the time when you go big or go home. From hardbaits like the Savage Gear Glide Swimmer and the Spro BBZ-1 to softbaits like the Huddleston Deluxe and Wreckem Baits Twerk Minnow, swimbaits offer big bass the meal of a lifetime. Instead of chasing after a bunch of little tiny baitfish, big bass will target the biggest prey they can find. Big swimbait fishing is not for the faint of heart however. You need a really stout rod, heavy braided line and the willingness to be sore the next day from chucking these gargantuan baits all day. You definitely won’t catch the most fish but what you will catch could be the fish of a lifetime.
So embrace the fall all you bass anglers! Put on that extra layer of clothes, enjoy the crisp mornings and get ready to have some of the best fishing days of the entire year!
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