Bass are lethargic, but the first big bait move will jolt them awake
September is not a month that many bass fishermen in the Carolinas circle on their calendars. Fishing can be challenging, to say the least, in lakes all across the South. But you can do some things to try and have a good day on the water when bassing in September.
First, you have to understand the fish. Bass will be coming off the dog days of summer. And because the water temperatures are the hottest of the year, they will be lethargic, not feeding very much.
Now, understand, the water temperature can be pretty hot after the spring spawn is finished, and those fish feed. But they’re feeding up to recover from the spawn, because the spawn has taken some weight off them.
But in September, the water has been hot all summer, and they’re lethargic. Normally, the only time you think of bass as being cold-blooded and lethargic is late in winter when they’ve been in cold water and have slowed down. So, if you have some time you need to set aside in September to fish, try to make it the latter part of the month.
In late September, the days are getting shorter — we don’t have as much sunlight. The nights are getting longer and the water temperature will start dropping. When it does, the fish come alive. That’s when the first transition starts. That’s when they start moving back into creeks.
Find the bait when bassing in September
The first thing you should be looking for are creeks that the bait has moved back in first, because they don’t all go back at the same time in all the creeks. Big or small, I usually want to find a creek that’s getting a little more runoff. And that’s because the bait will move back in there first.
Those shad and herring will start to move in late September, through October and into November. If you can find a creek where they moved back earlier than others, you can really have a good day in there — especially if you’re fishing a tournament.
The bait isn’t going to move all the way back in that creek to start with, and you don’t have to go back that far to find them, even if they’re not on the surface. Our electronics these days are so good that you can see the bait. I’ve got four Humminbird Helix depth finders on my boat, and whether I’m behind the console or on the front of the boat, I’m looking at them all the time. With my electronics, I can run along at a fast idle and see everything in front of and to the sides of my boat.
When you find bait that’s moved back in a creek, you want to start fishing there, because other than right around the spawn, bass want to be around bait. They’re like you and I; we want to be around the groceries when it’s time for dinner.
When I find the bait, I try to determine the depth most of it is holding, and if I can, I’ll look for fish on my electronics. In the Carolinas, we have lakes with standing timber, with good contour lines — and lakes that don’t have either. I’m going to find the bait and try to present a lure around it — above, below or right in it. Bass may want to feed up, suspend in the bait, or feed on the bottom below it. If you can pick them out on your electronics, you know where to start.
Present a lure
If you find fish around bait 10 feet below the surface, you may be able to pull them up with a topwater plug, or you may have to crank a DT-10 crankbait down to them.
If they’re on the bottom, you may have to Texas-rig a Senko and get it down to them. It all depends on the type of mood they’re in.
A couple of more things to factor in. If you have some wind, you want to be fishing in it, fishing windy banks. Wind helps, and not just by cooling things off. The water is so clear, because we usually haven’t had a lot of rain, that the wind helps you. I love to fish windy banks whenever I can.
Second, on smaller lakes that don’t have a lot of tributary creeks, bait will move and bass will be more aggressive in the upper river sections of the lake in late summer and early fall. But I like lakes with lots of bigger creeks, because that gives you more options — there will be less pressure on just one area.
So, find the bait, and find the bass. There may not be a month when that means more than it does in September.
JOIN THE CLUB, get unlimited access for $2.99/month
Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Carolina Sportsman Magazine and CarolinaSportsman.com.