BoatUS ANGLER: Seasonal Fishing Tactics
Fall Fishing Patterns
by Mike Iaconelli, courtesy of National Hunting & Fishing Day website
photo courtesy of MikeIaconelli.com
A big part of locating bass on any body of water is identifying which seasonal pattern the fish are in and having an idea about how fish behave during this pattern. These patterns can vary from place and depend a lot on latitude. Just because it's technically fall on the calendar, it can still be 80-90 degrees in parts of the south. Just the same, it can still be officially summer in Minnesota and still get pretty chilly. Fish weather and fisherman weather aren't always the same, so just monitor the water temperature if you're uncertain about which pattern the fish will be in.
But since it's now officially fall, I want to talk about fishing for fall bass. I break this pattern into two: early fall and fall transition. Fishing in this part of the year can prove challenging but it's not impossible.
In early fall, bass get a sense that winter is coming because the water temperature is beginning to cool from what is has been throughout the summer. Since they instinctively sense that winter is on its way, they begin to feed pretty heavily on the baitfish that are moving into shallow water. Most people think that if the fish are really chowing down then the fishing will be easy. Wrong. They aren't just eating anything, they are keying on a certain kind of bait.
Because they are keying on certain bait (shad, crawfish, etc.), it is extremely important that you match the hatch. It's a big thing especially for fly fisherman, but bass fisherman should apply it, too. Whether it's baby bluegill, crawfish, dragonflies or anything else, I need to know so I carefully examine every fish that I catch by looking down their gullets or carefully feeling their belly to try to determine what they've been munching on. If the belly is squishy, they've probably been eating soft bait fish like minnows or shad; if it feels crunchy then there's probably a crawfish shell in there that hasn't been digested. An object turning end over end is most likely the spine of a bluegill.
During this early fall time, I like to hit creeks and pockets with drains or any place that has an influx of freshwater water because it will draw in more of the baitfish that the bass are eating. I might throw a Berkley Power Tube or Power Craw in these areas, Texas rigging them and keeping them close to the bottom. But as good as these areas can be, don't overlook the backsides of windswept points. During this time of the year, bass love to get behind these points and face into the wind and ambush and kind of baitfish that get pushed towards the banks by the current. A Berkley Frenzy Diver in whatever color or pattern that coincides with what their eating can very effective. The point is that fishing the early fall requires moving around a lot and trying to find these areas where the fish are feeding.
Later fall will find the bass heading back towards wintering areas so focusing on isolated points or cover near vertical breaks is a great place to start looking for these fish. These later-season fish will also be a little easier to catch, so don't let the cooling weather keep you off the water.
But it's the early fall where you might need a light jacket in the morning and an air conditioner in the afternoon that provides some challenging fishing with the possibility for some hefty fish. All it takes is a little detective work to match the hatch and the ability to determine the seasonal pattern and you will be well on your way.
Berkley Pro Staffer Mike Iaconelli is the 2006 BASS Angler of the Year and the 2003 Bassmaster Classic champion.
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