Early Fall and the Baitfish Factor

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Fall Bass & baitfishDuring the summer, baitfish such as shad and herring reside in deepwater, main lake areas just as many bass do. Once the water temperatures start to slowly decrease, baitfish start to migrate to the shallower bays and flats in the lower portions of creek arms in search of forage (plankton) as they prepare for the coming winter period.

It should be of little surprise that the bass will be “hot on their tails” as the bass also start to strap on the proverbial “feed-bag” to prepare for the winter doldrums.

Both the baitfish and bass tend to remain near sections of major creek arms and bays closest to the main lake during this early fall period. As a result, bass are somewhat scattered and are sometimes hard to pinpoint while in a pseudo-transition state. Structure and weed beds located near the entrance to creek arms and bays as well as deep weed-laden flats are typical haunts used by early fall bass and baitfish.

school of baitfish

If aquatic weeds are a significant type of fish-holding cover in the lakes, rivers or reservoirs you fish, carefully monitor the pattern of dying vegetation. Remembering to key in on deeper, more vibrant weed beds and weed-lines as shallow vegetation dies off can often provide excellent dividends in both the quantity and quality of the bass caught in weed-infested waters …

Even though bass are still transient in nature and are typically scattered during the early fall period, they are already starting to feed heavily and can be readily caught when located. A definite plus for the early fall bass angler …

Fishing Tactics for Early Fall

Since bass are scattered and tend to roam in early fall, a prime objective is to target fish associated with shallow structures. These shallow bass are actively feeding therefore it is usually easy to take advantage of their aggressive behavior and experience some truly exceptional days on the water.

Lure selection should focus on baits that can cover water and structure as quickly as possible since the goal is to pick off any aggressively feeding bass in the area.

Fish are typically keyed on larger forage to prepare for the slower conditions during the winter season. Not only do you want to select lures that can cover water quickly but you also want to use larger profile artificial baits.

Primary candidates for early fall artificial lure selections include:

• Spinnerbaits and buzzbaits with big blades,
• Larger shallow and deep running crankbaits in baitfish patterns,
• Jump-baits and large topwaters,
• Lipless crankbaits and
• Light colored swim jigs.

Theses lures can all be productive when presented to early fall bass under the right conditions.

popper & bass

After refining your lure selection there are a couple of key points to remember about early fall bass location.

First, early fall bass are often on the move and scattered so isolated structures are often more productive during this time than areas where structure is more densely packed. Additionally, remember to note the condition of aquatic vegetation you are planning to fish and shift to deeper weed beds as shallower vegetation shows signs of stress.

Secondly, since the fish are targeting schools of baitfish, early fall bass will often suspend in the upper parts of submerged structure (tops of weed beds, bushes or suspended over rock piles. It is important to keep your lure presentations higher in the water column since the bass are usually NOT relating to bottom structures.

Early to Early-Mid Fall Bass & Weather

During most of the early fall and into the midfall period, both windy and rainy weather can play a key role in increasing bass feeding activity. The effect of both conditions on surface results in lower levels of light penetration, adding increased levels of dissolved oxygen (DO) and slightly cooling temperatures. Even though these same conditions tend to shut-down bass fishing in the late fall, all three factors can significantly enhance bass feeding activity earlier in the fall season.

One things to remember…

The timing of these facts and tactics will vary depending on your local climate and may not even apply to the far southern portions of Florida since it never really gets cold there!

Bass Photo Credit:

Borrowed from an on the water Tweet via Mark Easterling ( Twitter handle – @lapbass ) after this big gal ate the popper while fish were chasing bait late summer 2013.

Thanks Mark!

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