Bass are like many creatures in nature, acutely in touch with their environment. As darkness begins to last as long as daylight, the surface water cools to a temperature more to the liking of all types of prey. Insect hatches occur with frequency, and the baitfish move in to feast on them. These cooling temperatures also hold more oxygen, so bass are not stressed as they follow the baitfish into the shallows. When water temperatures approach 72-degrees, Mama Pesce is back in fighting form. Her metabolism is at its peak, and it seems that her hunger drives her every move. The only way to satisfy the empty feeling in the stomach of this huge largemouth is to swallow as many baitfish and crawfish as Mama Pesce can find.
Now is the time to start searching those shallow areas that seemed void of bass last month. Since most bodies of water hold vast areas of shallow water, it would be helpful to learn where to start your search. Begin in the shallowest end of a lake, and if you are fishing a reservoir, fish the upper end opposite of the dam. These are the first waters to cool, and will be the first location where bass will move shallow. Concentrate on west banks, as these banks only receive sunlight in the morning hours when the sun doesn’t warm the water as much as in the late afternoon. Morning mist will often block the sun from warming these western banks at all.
Pay attention to your surface water temperature gauge if you have one, and confirm that you are indeed fishing where the water is cooler. When I first notice the surface temperature gage on my Stratos boat cooling toward 72-degrees, I head to the points that separate west coves or creek arms from the main lake. These seem to be favorite ambush spots for bass as they wait for shad, smelt, and other baitfish to enter the cove in search of cooler water. This is when I reach for a Carolina-rig if the water is calm, or even a topwater lure like a Sammy. If there is any chop at all on the surface, I prefer to grab my Lamiglas cranking rod and throw shad imitating baits.
Since bass are approaching their peak metabolism, you will get more attention from hungry bass by matching your retrieve to their activity level. This is my favorite time to employ a fast and steady retrieve, and the best lures to accomplish this are the lipless rattlers. Two of my favorites are the Lucky Craft LV-500 and the LV-100. If these lures don’t produce for you, I would suspect that the bass have not yet moved into a fall pattern, and will still be found in their summer depths.
Once bass do make an appearance on these primary points, you can expect consistent action for a couple of weeks. Beyond that bass continue to follow baitfish into the coves, and you should follow the bass. Since the water temperatures continue to cool, more and more baitfish stack into these coves, making them prime locations to catch fall bass.
A long time ago I learned how upland game could be found concentrated wherever there was a fencerow around a plowed field, or where the woods met a field. A successful hunt required doing the hunting wherever these “edges” were found. Apply this same logic to bass fishing, and you will discover an important tip that will change your “fishing” to “catching”.
Bass hunt their prey at “edges”, such as where the outside edge of a weedline meets deeper, open water. Another edge that is exploited by these predators is the inside weedline that separates the weedbed from a path of open water next to the shoreline. The shoreline itself is another important edge.
Bass will cruise along these edges in search of food. Once a school of baitfish is spotted, the bass may slip into a pocket in the weeds and wait to ambush the passing baitfish. Bass in the 2-pound range and below often hunt these edges in groups, and use their numbers to force baitfish up against these edges where they can't escape. When this happens the water literally explodes as marauding bass engulf every hapless baitfish they can attack. Grab that topwater and have a ball!
Most feeding activity will occur in the early and later parts of the day, with mid-day being the least productive unless you know how to catch bass hiding in the weeds. When that sun gets straight overhead, the bigger bass that have moved into these coves will bury themselves in the shade of the weedbeds on calm days.
There are two lures that efficiently fish weedbeds better than most. One of the most popular lures for fishing weeds is the “rat”, or weedless plastic frog. These float on top of the weeds, and I like to tie them on the new McCoy braided superline in 50-pound test. Fishing weedless rats such as the Snagproof frog is the one time I prefer the braid to mono for two reasons; it floats, and when you fight a bass it slices through the weeds like a hot knife through butter. The most frustrating thing about fishing rats is that you will experience a low hookup-to-strike ratio, but this can be greatly improved by swapping out the stock hook with the new Gamakatsu double hook specially designed for rats.
The other prime lure to fish in weedbeds is the Senko. If the weedbed has openings, fish the Senko weightless and Texas-rigged. If you need to penetrate the surface mat of weeds to reach openings below the surface, use the “Florida-Rig”. This employs a heavy screw-in weight at the nose of a Texas-rigged Senko.
Another prime location to fish the Senko at this time is next to submerged wood. Opportunistic bass utilize isolated wood as an “edge” to aid in feeding. During mid-day the best wood is that which provides overhead cover in depths around 6-feet. In the mornings and evenings, bass often prefer wood along the shoreline.
Throughout the fall season, the evening bite around dusk can be dynamite! This is the time to bring out the spinnerbaits and topwaters. When you find bass on this pattern you could have nonstop action until the mosquitoes drive you away.
So the next time the first evening chill through your bedroom window causes you to pull the comforter over your head, dream about your first opportunity to hitch up your boat and head for the shallows! Ciao. You can reach me at LimitBy9@aol.com.