I’ve been on the road a lot filming and fishing the past few weeks and have watched the fall transition develop across the south and into the north.
Of course, it’s farther along here in Michigan where the trees have turned into an array of brilliant colors and the water temperatures are dropping precipitously.
You’ve heard me say this before; what triggers the fall pattern is a good 10-degree drop in temperatures. We’re in the midst of that now and that’s what ignites bass and baitfish movement toward the shallower water. When that happens, fishing starts to get very good.
On reservoirs, this is when the shad are moving into the creeks, especially if the water has some color to it. That’s where you find the shad and bait.
In lowland reservoirs, they move into the backs of creeks with stained water; in highland reservoirs, they can be anywhere from the mouth to the back.
There are common clues that this is happenin’ and the birds are one of the best. If you find an area with gulls and herons hanging around, it’s a dead giveaway that the shad are there, too. Another key sign is when you see the shad flitting around the surface or you notice balls of bait on your graph.
The bass will be congregating in areas where they can ambush the balls of shad. They’ll use whatever cover is available, be it brush tops, rocky banks or crappie brush piles. Much of the cover is starting to be exposed on reservoirs that are going through the drawdown phase before winter.
A key to fishing this time of year is to keep moving and utilizing fast-moving baits. One of my favorites is a Strike King Sexy Dawg topwater, but I also will have a Red Eye shad lipless lure, spinnerbait and KVD Square Bill crankbaits on the boat deck. At times, a buzzbait can be dynamite.
On northern natural lakes without shad, the fish are focused on bluegills. As fall progresses, the bluegills will start relating to weedlines near open water and the bass will be in the immediate area. I look for large flats with grass and fish the edges, either the shallow inside or the deeper outside edges.
They really use those areas best that are near the deep holes they use for wintering; inside turns leading into those weed flats are good places to look.
Although northern anglers tend to lean toward finesse baits, I’ve found that you’ll do better this time of year with fast movers. I like the Red Eye Shad and medium-running crankbaits like the Strike King Series 5 because it ticks the deeper weed edges. If the lake is shallow in nature, I’ll fish shallower baits.
And another thing to remember: this is when afternoon fishing is better. Once the sun warms the surface, the baitfish gets active and that invigorates the bass.
If you go early in the morning and leave at mid-day, you could be missing some of the best fishing of the year!
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!