• Dying aquatic plants – Vegetation is starting to deteriorate or becoming dormant, depending upon the types of plant life I find on the lake. Some will cause the lake to change color. Some species, like coontail, enter a dormant stage, settling like a blanket on the bottom. Milfoil is a plant that will become a little dormant, but it stays green much longer than other plant life. Others simply die and fade away.
• Topwater action – The main thrust of activity finds both bass and baitfish moving deeper during this period, but I often encounter a phenomenal topwater bite after the first frost on waters in the South. The frost really seems to turn them on, and the Rebel Pop-R can be exceptionally good at this time.
• Shad migration – An abundance of shad move into creek arms and coves at this time of year, so I will concentrate on the two arms on the north end of the reservoir. I’ll find lots of these shad suspended in thick, concentrated schools that often look like giant fish on my graph. A high percentage of bass will relate to them and suspend, too.
• Deep bream – Bluegill have moved to deeper water by late fall, and many are settled near the bottom. The colder the water, the more they will relate to the lake bottom.
• Frequent fronts – Fish move up and out with the passing of fronts. It’s not uncommon to find a front moving through every 36 to 48 hours at this time of year. You can find some fish shallow, but deepwater fish are more dependable because they are less affected by the passing of fronts.
Lots of fishermen complain that bass disappear in fall, but that’s not the case at all. The fish just aren’t where we found them before. rebel map If shad are the predominant forage, much of my attention will be on my graph to locate suspended schools of shad and the suspended bass trailing them. It’s crazy how the shad move along those creek arms. Yet, they tend to remain deep. I have tracked shad for hours in coves and creek arms. They are suspended over deep water – 9 feet, 10 feet, 12 feet…21 feet down, moving up and down but rarely moving shallower than 9 feet. I’ve seen this time and time again in fall – 9 feet just seems to be the shallowest they will come.
Bass will come up to hit a jerkbait when they are tracking shad. You can also take a lure like the 3.5-inch Rebel Tracdown Minnow and count it down to the depth where the fish are suspended.
Even with the movement of bass and forage to deeper water, a percentage of the bass population will frequent the shoreline to feed on crawfish and other forage. I look for areas where a creek channel skirts in close to shore then turns away from the bank. On our map, the creek channel coming in from the northeast swings fairly close to shore above the shallow flat on the west shoreline and at the top of the rock/riprap area on the east bank. These could be high percentage places. On the rocky shoreline close to deep water, the bass will be feeding predominantly on crawfish.
Jigs and other baits that I can work slowly will factor into my presentations. But I also will work crankbaits with a stop-and-go retrieve.
I do real well with two baits in late fall. The Rebel Big Craw is a fish-catching Jesse from mid- to late fall. Just don’t rip it a bunch or try to run the 100-yard dash with it. Try a slow-to-moderate, moderate-to-slow retrieve. It’s not a bait you want to burn at this time of year. If I’m fishing very clear water, I may fish the Wee Craw and Deep Wee Craw on spinning tackle, too.
I’ll also yo-yo lipless crankbaits, lifting them with the rod tip and letting them freefall down, as if I were working a Cordell C.C. Spoon, or even working it vertically beneath the boat.
With a stretch of several warm days and nights in fall, bluegill will move in over coontail beds. This is where I would fish the new Rebel Bluegill. Fish will come up and hit that bait.
Isolated features, such as a piece of timber seemingly out there by itself and offering quick access to deeper water, can be fish attractors. I would hunt for isolated wood near deeper water outside the shallow timber flat along the west bank.
Other baits? I’ll be armed with a jigging spoon or a 4- or 5-inch grub. I may also slow roll or freefall a ½-ounce willowleaf spinnerbait.
Let me add a couple more things to keep in mind for late fall fishing.
Some pros would disagree with me on this, but I believe you need to drop a bait on a bass’s nose or work a lure slowly past them at this time of year. Sure, you may catch a fish or two with a fast retrieve but the odds will be much more in your favor if you fish slowly.
Nights are cold at this time of year, and periods of daylight are dwindling each day. Water starts warming around noon and reaches its warmest temperature around 3 p.m. before it chills back down. Often, 2 to 4 p.m. is the warmest part of the day, and that may be the period when you find your fish most active. So, sleeping in and catching the afternoon bite may not be a bad idea!