Crankbaits are the ticket to great fall bass fishing
I’ve been waiting for Halloween to come over the horizon for months. It’s probably my second-favorite month to fish for bass, trailing only June. That’s because the way bass act fits perfectly into the way I like to fish: crankbaits on channel drops and ledges back in creeks.
One thing I love is, a lot of people are in the woods deer-hunting, and a lot fewer bass boats on the water. That’s always good. And you can catch different kinds of bass in the same places: largemouths, stripers, hybrids where they’re available. Usually by September, they’re starting to move into the creeks, following bait. And in October, they should be back in the creeks real good. Some might stay on the main lake, but most of the concentrations will be in the creeks.
Bass can be suspended pretty good, depending on what part of the month it is, or they could be shallow. But what I really like to fish are straight-up drops, long points, roadbeds — anything where bass can stage up on and feed. At the first of the month, unless it’s already gotten cool, they can still be in 15 feet of water, and then they can be in 8 to 12 feet. Later in the month, they’ll be farther back in creeks and in shallower water.
I can remember one time at Buggs Island in the fall, I caught ‘em pretty good on isolated stumps. The water was down, and it was real clear. I could see the tops of stumps that were right on the edge where the water dropped into 15 feet.
All about wood
October is really when all the work you did during the winter pays off. If you put brush in a lake, October and November are months when bass really get on wood: either stumps or brush. That’s especially true if rocks are around.
You can miss ’em in the fall. It’s harder to see them on your electronics, because they’ll be tight to the bottom, tight to stumps, tight to brush where you can’t tell them apart from crappie. So you just need to put your bait in the water.
Fish can be in a variety of depths. If they are deep, a Berkley Dredger is best, but a Digger can be real good, because it’s got that harder, crawdad action. Bass begin wanting a tight action in September. That’s also why flat-sided baits like my Frittsides work so well in the fall. They act more like a shad in cooler water than at any time of year. So I’ve always got one tied on, the size depending on the depth of the water.
When you find one, you find a gang
The thing is, when you find ’em, they’ll be ganged up, but they’ve got to be ready to feed. You can pull up on a place that’s holding a 25-pound stringer. But they might not be in a feeding mood, and you’ve got to get one of them to trigger. If you do, you can get them all coming to you.
A perfect example is the 1999 Hungry Fisherman championship I won on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville. I caught my limits both days on a mussel bed that was no bigger than the hood of my pickup truck. They were really ganged up, and I got them going with a crankbait.
Most of the time, I’m going to approach a drop or a set of stumps right on a drop by sitting deep, casting shallow and bringing the bait back that way. Sometimes, you need to parallel the drop, and I can remember one time having to throw deep and bring it back up the drop, digging all the way.
I am going to start this month by looking for fish halfway back in creeks. In October, you can have fish all the way back when you find a creek with good water depths. Shad will be in the creeks, and they’ll be moving. You want to fish the edges of the channel breaks, the ends of the flats.
The old color we called “carp” was a great color this time of year. Now, I think we’ve got three or four great colors for our Berkley crankbaits that are made for October: cream pie, honey shad, spicy mustard and rubbertail. These are all great colors in the fall when bass are keying on shad.
The only time I need to use a really long rod, like my Lews 7-foot-6 cranking rod, is when they’re out around 15 feet deep. Normally, I’ll be throwing the 6-foot-8 and 7-foot versions, with the 5.1-to-1 retrieve ratio BB1 reel. I like to fish 10-pound diameter Sensation line. You can go up to 12-pound, but your bait loses a little bit of action.
When I find a spot holding fish and catch a few, and then they stop biting, I change to a bait with a different action. Or I’ll change colors in the bait I’m throwing. I’m probably not going to throw any soft-plastic baits, because they’re not as good as crankbaits in October. I might also go with a drop bait like a War Pig and hop it off the bottom. If I’ve caught some fish in one place in practice before a tournament, then pull up on it in a tournament and don’t catch any, that’s when I’m going to drop a War Pig down and try to get them triggered, because they can get a little moody.
So, tie on a handful of your favorite crankbaits this month. Get back in a creek, and locate the drops along the channel edges and get your bait in the water. You might wind up with a catch to remember.