Fall Into Line

Bassmaster Elite pro anglers Terry Butcher, Keith Poche, Rick Clunn and Stephen Browning offer their fall and winter fishing tips.

Terry Butcher

Once the temperatures get down there, I don't have to worry about those guys offshore beating me because you can win on the bank."

Butcher's Tips:

  • Concentrate in one to three feet of water.
  • Begin the day with a buzzbait to cover more water than most other topwater lures.
  • For a change of pace, use a dark-colored buzzbait in low light conditions.
  • The go-to lure is an Xcalibur square-billed crankbait in citrus shad of foxy shad color patterns, depending on the water color.
  • Cast the crankbait around any type of cover in shallow water – wood, rock, vegetation, across shallow points — any place bass might be holding
  • Keep a white or white-and-chartreuse spinnerbait tied on to cast at the same targets.
  • Always keep a flipping stick on the deck, with a soft plastic lure like a Yum Wooly Bug in colors suitable for the water color.

Keith Poche

"Fall is all about shad. You really have to match what the bass are feeding on. Let the fish tell you what they want."

Poche's Tips:

  • Carry a variety of shad-imitating baits, so you can match the size of the baitfish.
  • Start with a topwater lure in the morning, like a Zara Spook, a buzzbait or a Pop-R and throw them in the shallow water in the backs of creeks.
  • If the topwater bite doesn't materialize, change to a Lucky Strike shallow-running crankbait, either a square-bill or a round bill. The key is shallow running.
  • Dig up mud on flats and bump the crankbait into any kind of cover.
  • If you fail to get any bites there, move back and fish in a little deeper water, up to 10 feet.
  • A 1/2 or 3/8ths ounce spinnerbait is another good weapon. Burn it across the surface and bump it into cover. It's also a good bait for paralleling a shallow point.
  • Match the blades and skirts on the spinnerbait to the water color — gold blades and chartreuse skirts for off-color water, silver blades and translucent skirts for clear water.
  • A Rat-L-Trap is another good shad-imitating lure to keep handy.
  • Fish all these lures on 15-pound monofilament, for the extra stretch the line gives you.

Rick Clunn

"Back then people would move deeper in the fall because they thought the fish would move deeper with winter coming. But actually there's a transition from late summer to fall where the fish move shallow again."

Clunn's Tips:

  • Clunn's longtime favorite lure in the fall is a square-billed crankbait. He favors a Luck-E-Strike Series 1, 2 and 3.
  • The most important key in the fall is the size of the baitfish bass are eating. Sometimes it changes from year to year. You have to experiment to know what's best that day.
  • Throw the square-billed crankbait like you would a spinnerbait, bumping it to as much cover as possible — any kind of cover, from wood to rock, and pulling it through vegetation.
  • Vary the lure color with the water color. Copper perch is good for off-colored water; a pearl bait with a black-and-green back is preferred for clear water.
  • You can't fish too shallow in the fall. Sometimes it helps to have a lighter-weight aluminum boat to get into the backs of creeks that may have silted-in barriers.
  • A seven-foot fiberglass rod is ideal for fishing square-billed crankbaits. Clunn uses 15-pound monofilament line.
  • Clunn's backup bait is a Luck-E-Strike Trickster spinnerbait, which features "long drop" blades, which combine the flash of a willowleaf with the thump of a Colorado blade.
  • While lakes are usually low in the fall, limiting the number of targets, always keep a flipping stick on the deck when opportunity presents itself.

Stephen Browning

"(Fall) without a doubt is the best. You can catch more fish in the fall, especially toward the end of the fall, and they are as healthy as they're going to be throughout the year ."

Browning's tips:

  • The very, very back ends of creeks is where you want to start.
  • Look at the bottom and that little break. It might be a foot-and-a-half of water, it might be two feet, but it will be three to six feet at the most.
  • Start with a topwater lure early in the morning, like a double-prop LiveTarget Blueback Herring, or anything that mimics bass busting shad.
  • When the topwater bite ends, switch to a shallow-running crankbait, like a LiveTarget Crawfish, and use it to dig around in mud flats, chunk rock banks and isolated logs, trying to get a reaction strike.
  • A War Eagle Screaming Eagle spinnerbait, which is a half-ounce lure built on a quarter-ounce frame, is another good bait to burn across the surface and bump into wood and rock structure.
  • Prepare to do some flipping when fish are holding tight to cover on bluebird days. A 5/16ths-ounce jig with a soft plastic trailer is a good lure choice.
  • Use 16- or 20-pound fluorocarbon line with lighter action rods so you can feel your lure better. End of story hook

— Published: Fall 2011

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