The fall largemouth bass fishing is on fire at Lake Marion, and bass are literally exploding in the upper half of the lake. Guide Inky Davis said the bite has been superb, and the topwater schooling activity is the best that he’s seen in a while.

“The largemouth are schooling almost everywhere I go,” Davis said. “The good news is that there’s a lot of average-size fish – and that bodes well for the future – but there’s plenty of big bass schooling as well. I’ve always said that to find bass in the fall, follow the shad, but in truth, the baitfish seem to be almost everywhere, and so are the largemouth.

Davis (803-478-7289) said he’s had several 50-fish days on recent trips, and some big bass have been caught on nearly every trip.

“Forage is always a key to success at Santee Cooper, especially in October and November,” Davis said. “But there is so much more forage this year, I am thinking the cormorant season last year may have actually helped our supply of forage. I know there’s a lot of more this year, and fish are schooling like old times.

“When looking for largemouth, in addition to requiring forage in the general area to hold bass on localized cover, the fall pattern is the prime time of the year for topwater schooling,” he said. “As the forage reaches this stage of development, largemouth bass more frequently take advantage of the shallow water schools of baitfish. If a fisherman is prepared, this schooling activity can add several fish to the daily catch.”

Davis is catching the schooling bass on a variety of lures, including his favorite long-range lure, the Little George.

“One technique I employ is to scale back on the size of lures I use, especially the crankbaits, to match the size of the baitfish,” he said. “I’ll use a Little-N and ΒΌ-ounce swimming-minnow lures that can be cast long distances. My color preference is a basic chartreuse pattern, with crawfish colors often productive as well. I also keep a shad-pattern Little George tailspinner rigged and ready for long-range schooling fish. But other lures that are hot right now include Frogs, spinnerbaits and soft plastics. You fish it, they’ll bite it.”

Davis said schooling fish are not the only way to catch fish during the fall.

“I’ll work points, coves and pockets of cover in 5 to 7 feet of water where baitfish is present,” he said. “Often the fish will be holding on woody cover, but they’ll usually chase a crankbait or spinnerbait. If holding in grassy cover, I’ll use a Frog or other soft plastic. I work an area quickly, looking for aggressive fish.

“We’ll usually see fish breaking into the pods of shad,” he said. “A quick response is crucial to get a bite. Cast just beyond where the fish are schooling and work the lure through. Even if the fish school for only a few seconds, you can still hook up. Typically, you’ll only get a fish or two from a single spot, but on a good day, you’ll encounter a number of opportunities. This year we’re getting more than in recent years.”

“Water temperature, forage fish and the weather are all in transition,” Davis said. “There will be changes in places bass are found based on these changing factors as the water cools. Stay on top of the forage and you can make a smooth, fish-catching transition and enjoy some great fall fishing action.

“I sure look forward to the next couple of months of bass fishing,” Davis said.