Pro's Picks For Fall Bassin'

Blade Baits For Fall Bronzebacks

When hardcore smallmouth anglers mention blade bait, they are not referring to a spinnerbait as some largemouth bass anglers may believe. This blade is not a rotating willow, Indiana or Colorado above a skirted head. Rather this blade is the body of the lure itself - a somewhat teardrop-shaped metal fin with a dab of molded lead for a head and one or two treble hooks attached. Weight wise, models are available from 1/4-ounce to 1-ounce, with the 1/2- and 3/4-ounce ones getting the most play among smallmouth anglers. It doesn't look like much at first blush, but when fished like a jig it becomes an absolutely deadly lure for smallmouth as water temperature drops and bass increasingly relate to the bottom. An easy rod pump, pull or lift of the bait results in vibration and flash. The blade bait is one of my three top lures for big smallmouth bass in the late fall. Granted, smallmouth anglers on Tennessee's hill-land reservoirs regard a blade bait as a wintertime lure, but in the north country from New England to the upper Mid-West, the calendar period from mid-October to mid-December with water temps falling from 55 to 45 degrees is designated as late fall. This is prime blade bait time.


Where should you fish a blade? Well, that is up to you, based on your knowledge of smallmouth location in the water you are fishing. I've fished with smallmouth guru Joe Balog in the fall when he targeted open sand spots amid a weedbed in water 6 to 8 feet deep. On reservoirs, I'll cast shallow and work the blade down a 45 degree sloping point. I frequently drop them on channel lips and hard bottom mid-lake rises in 15 to 25 feet of water. One of my favorite spots is the outside edge of weed flat on a natural lake, working from the weedline down to about 15 or 18 feet searching for a rock outcropping which attracts smallmouth. Now go catch a big smallmouth!

Lure Selection:

Only a handful of national tackle manufactures offer blade baits in their lineup. The Heddon Sonar is the original blade bait. However, the Silver Buddy (originally made in Kentucky) might be better known. Other recognized blades include the Binsky; Buckeye Jiggin' Blade; Poor Boy Blade; Punisher Silver Minnow; Reef Runner Cicada; Vib "E"; and Worden's Showdown. Plus a host of regional baits made in garages or basements. Understand this: not all blade baits are created equal. What separates a great blade from a so-so one is balance and ease of vibration. You've heard the ad that "wider is better" when it comes to tires, but "thinner is better" in blade bait fins. Thinner blades have greater action and better harmonics than thicker ones. There is the blade finish to consider, also. Many serious smallmouth anglers use a plain metal finish in either nickel or gold. They refuse any blade covered in paint or prism tape. However, others find certain colors to be effective at times. I fall into the latter group. A blade with strong green chartreuse color in the pattern has proven extremely productive at times, helping me to out fish buddies who stick with bare metal. I also experiment with other finishes from time to time.

Lure Presentation:

There are two basic presentations for fall: (1) the "Burp" and (2) "Slow Roll." The burp may be used on a cast-n-retrieve, or when jigging vertically. Once the lure finds bottom, engage the line, wind up slack until you have contact with the bait. Use the rod tip to lift the blade off the bottom. Do this firmly but without any snap or jerking motion. As soon as you detect a vibration through the line from the blade, pause the upward movement and lower the rod tip slowly to sit the lure back on the bottom. Repeat this procedure, setting the hook immediately if you feel resistance on the lift or a tick as the lure descends. The slow roll is accomplished by raising the rod tip to lift the blade from the bottom and then slowly winding steadily - fast enough to maintain blade vibration. Keep the blade just above the bottom, pausing occasionally to touch bottom thereby making sure it has not climbed too high.

Blade Bait Gear:

Matching the right combination of rod, reel and line is very important. I use both spinning and casting combos in 6'10"or 7'2" lengths, favoring a medium power rod rather than an extra-heavy power. The rod blank cannot be too stiff otherwise the small hooks on the compact weighty lure may rip out when fighting a big fish. For years I used 12-pound monofilament for blades, but recently I went to 10 pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon with complete confidence in the downsizing. Some anglers use no-stretch braided line for greater strength and sensitivity. However I've always maintained that some stretch in line is vital for successfully playing big fish on blade baits. However, last year began testing an outfit with 15 pound braid and a 10 pound monofilament leader. In using braid, I've gone to a rod with an even more forgiving tip to prevent hooks ripping out. For me, the jury is still out on braid for this application. The blade is attached to the line with a round-bend snap. I usually clip one tine of a treble hook off, or replace each treble with a double hook in size 4 or 6. Hooks must be super sharp, and require frequent touch up with a file.

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Blade Bait Bronzeback Fall 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Darl Black pg. 12 - 14)

Fall Crankin' With John Crews

"A lot of anglers abandon the deep crankin' technique in the fall," reported Bassmaster Elite Series pro John Crews. "Not me. I do a lot of crankbait fishing this time of year, especially deep crankin'. Even though it is nothing like crankin' in early spring, fall crankin' can still be really productive and the fact that less people do it is another good reason to give it a try." As a crankbait designer, Crews has incorporated a lure that has the best of his deep diving wish list in the SPRO Little John DD and Baby DD. "To me, there were a lot of good parts to a lot of different crankbaits. I wanted to put one together that had all of those characteristics in one. I wanted flat sides and not a lot of rattles. I wanted it to dig in on the bottom but not blow up. I wanted it to have a slow float. I wanted a variety of things and I was lucky to be able to work with SPRO and put a line of crankbaits together just the way that I wanted them. They are ready right out of the package with Gamakatsu hooks. The DD and Baby DD are the two deep divers that I fish the most in the fall."


In the fall, fish set up on steep, vertical drops. Types of areas you want to target are points and ledges with drops, channel swing banks and points on channel swing points. If you can't find those steeper drop offs, look for ledges in road beds, creeks or long points. You can find these areas with your electronics and then hone in on the key spots with your rod and reel. Bass tend not to group up as much at this time of year. You have to remember you're going to catch a lot of single fish - one here, one there. That is why this a good technique; because of how fast you can cover water and hit a lot of places. The more water you cover, the more casts you make, the more single fish you can pick up along the way. Keep moving. Don't spend too much time in one spot. You have a lure that can cover water; so, keep covering water. In the fall, baitfish are critical in finding bass. If you see the shad flickin' it is a good indication it is a good area. If you saw baitfish earlier and now it is gone, the bass have gone too.

Lure Presntation:

Start casting at the top at the shallowest part and work your way down. I will grind into the cover at the edge of the break, first and then to the next point down, before I get to the bottom. At this time of year, you will find fish in all strike zones. Fall fish are just notorious for scattering. You may pick up one in four-feet, then eight, then 16 or even lower. You cannot get locked into a depth, just because you get bit at that level. I think that is one reason people give up on crankin' in the fall. They get a fish at four-feet and then fish that depth and don't get anymore and give up. You have to be willing to hit all strike zones and willing to move around. The fish could be on a certain point and then move 100-yards, two hours later. If you do get bit at a certain place, you should revisit that place multiple times in a day. Boat positioning should be on the break, parallel to the drop. You can cast from the front of the boat or the back along that break line. If you can find a grass line with the break. That is even better. I want to reel as fast as I can without getting hung up. You should vary your cadence on your retrieve with stop and start motions to get that reaction strike going. The Little John has a slow float, which is what I like for the stop and start retrieves, because it stays in the strike zone longer. Pretty much you want to keep the rod pointed at the bait to get the max feel.

Crankbait Gear:

I use a Pinnacle LTE 6.4:1 reel for its faster gear ratio. I am able to keep up with the fish after they eat it. For my line, I use 12 lb Vicious Pro Elite fluorocarbon for both lures. When choosing a rod you want something with a good backbone and a soft tip. I don't want a rod that feels like a wet noodle. I use a Pinnacle Perfecta DHC5 7'8" deep crankbait rod. It is made for crankin and with that backbone, I can throw the lure a long way and I can control what the fish is doing. The soft tip is important, so that you don't pull the treble hook out of the fish's mouth and so you can allow it to eat the crankbait when it hits it. Remember a fish will vacuum suck a crawdad that is six, eight, 10 or even 12 inches away to eat it. They do the same thing when they eat a crankbait. You have to have the tip that allows them to suck it in.

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Crankin' With John Crews Fall 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Jody Only pg. 48 - 49)

Fat Bass In Skinny Water

Fall is the best time to get into shallower water than during any other period of the year, on countless lakes, streams, rivers and reservoirs. Sure, there are exceptions, when anglers do catch deep bass in fall. But, this mostly occurs in early or late fall on most waters, when water temperatures are far outside the bass' optimal range. When temperatures aren't extremely hot or cold in fall, on most waters, large numbers of bigger bass will move into shallow water, often water so shallow, that it sometimes barely covers their backs. What's more, is that in this situation, bass are often active and aggressively feeding, making their capture easier than in the months preceding or following this time frame.


Main lake areas and main river channel areas can hold fall bass, but the best bets are usually coves, inlets, bays and pockets, and of course, creek and river arms that enter lakes and reservoirs. Shallow shoreline banks hold lots of bass in the fall, although those with a gradual to moderate taper tend to be better than ones that fall quickly into the depths. Shelves can also hold active fall bass, and, in deep mountain reservoirs, strip pits and similar waters with mostly steep sloping banks, shelves will hold lots of bass. Long gradually tapering points can be productive spots and so can shallow humps. For those of you that tune in to the regional and national network TV shows that I host, you already know what my favorite fall location is for big bass, and I've also won more than one autumn tournament in these very places too. Where available, flats are often the most productive of fall bass spots. My personal favorite fall location to fish is a large flat with a creek flowing into the back of it. These autumn goldmines have produced numbers of big bass for my staffers and me with incredible consistency, across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Lure Selection:

Fall bass do feed on crawfish, frogs, insects and a variety of other creatures in the fall. But, in most waters, various baitfish species make up the vast majority of the diet of most bass during fall, and so, presentation options are more limited as a result. Lures that mimic baitfish top the list. The spinnerbait has always been my favorite fall bass lure. Other options like swimbaits, buzzbaits and blade baits are also great options.

Factors For Success:

Stealth is important to success in the skinny water game. Ease into likely areas slowly, shutting the outboard motor down well away from the areas to be fished. Use trolling motors on low speeds when approaching fish, and use them as little as possible. Better yet, if there is any wind, use it to your advantage. Drifting silently across shallow flats in fall has produced some whopper bass. Electronics aren't much of a factor in these situations, as you'll be in water too skinny to get any use out of them, except to monitor water temperature. I shut mine down, as some anglers feel the sonar can spook shallow water bass. Keep movement in the boat to a minimum and try not to rock back and forth, to avoid disturbing the fish. Big bass in super skinny water tend to be more wary than others.

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Fat Bass In Skimy Water Fall 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Colby Simms with Ray Simms & Andrew Veach pg. 38 - 39)

Schooling Fall Bass

Just ahead of the boat, bass slice the water's surface, churning it as they crush baitfish. The sight is enough to stop even the strongest angler's heart. At this instant, you might think you have two choices: stomp on the trolling motor's high-bypass button to quickly get to them or fire off a world-record long cast. You know if you can just get there you can catch them. But no matter how quick your trolling motor or long your cast, the bass always seem to be one swish of their tails ahead. Capitalizing on schooling bass is a longtime autumn angling tradition. The action can be quick once you've locked on a school but getting to that first bite isn't.


Hard structure and cover play a small part in chasing schooling bass. FLW Tour pro Ken Golub said smallies are focused on baitfish controlled by current conditions. Baitfish will stack somewhere between the surface and the thermocline, often suspending over as much as 80 feet of water, and wind will position the schools. If the wind is blowing from the south, for example, he says the baitfish, and the bass, will move to the northern side of a point. While the exact spot might change, requiring some scouting each trip, they never move far. "The depth is really key," Golub said. "If you don't have the patience and know-how to read electronics you'll never be in the game." He spent days staring at his Lowrance HDS-10 and its side-imaging, learning to decipher the hooks, blobs and lines. All that work does pay off. He feels he can eliminate as much as 60 percent of a lake just by idling and looking. He doesn't start his search for schoolies till postspawn, and the pattern becomes more dependable as the water cools. Sub-70 degree water is perfect, he said. It also produces bigger bass. He racked his brain trying to remember catching one less than 2 1/2 pounds.

Cooler temperatures also send BASS Elite Series pro Cherry looking for schooling bass. On Southern impoundments, baitfish migrate into creeks and coves starting in the fall. Many anglers believe that the bass also are moving, following the baitfish. That's partially correct, he said. Often it's the bait, not the bass, making the move. Bass will camp on a point or hump midway in a creek, for example, and intercept each wave of baitfish that passes them. He, too, uses technology to figure out which spots are best. During practice, he'll drop a waypoint on his GPS for every bass he catches - whether it's a 12-incher or a 4-pounder. After he's put his boat back on the trailer, he'll review all the waypoints, connecting the dots to reveal a picture. The waypoints, for example, might show that the bigger bass were caught off points close to the main lake and that smaller ones were closer to the back of creeks. He'll use that information to guide where he fishes the next day.

Lure Selection:

While the excitement of schooling bass comes from the swirls and splashes on the surface, most of the action actually takes place under the water. "It's all beneath the surface," Golub said of where the larger smallies are waiting and feeding. "Occasionally you'll see birds diving." And that's not just a function of latitude. It's the same deal as summertime ledge fishing on Tennessee River lakes such as Kentucky and Pickwick. There the bass are schooling and feeding, Cherry says, just underwater. When they are on top, it's often the smaller bass in the school thrashing the surface. Like with an iceberg, what you see is a portion of what you get; there's a lot more, or in this case bigger bass, down and out to the sides. "If you can't see them, you can still catch them deeper," Cherry said. To reach those bigger bass, he uses a heavier lure, which sinks quickly to larger bass waiting underneath or throws a big topwater bait, such as a Zara Spook, as far as 20 or 30 yards to the side of the swirls and boils. When the water is extremely clear or conditions difficult, like they were on Lewis Smith, he'll use a 7-foot spinning rod with 10-pound test braid and a 5- or 6-pound test fluorocarbon leader. The lighter lines make longer casts easier and keeps him farther from the school so he won't spook it. He'll use small swimbaits in shad patterns rigged on 1/8- and 1/4-ounce jigheads.

The smallies Golub chases feed on small baitfish, about 3 inches long. Most are alewives, but sometimes they school on yellow perch. One time it was small bluegill. Whichever species they are eating, matching the hatch is important. Bigger smallies, he said, are picky, so he learned to throw a casting net to sample what's on the menu. Each trip he'll cycle through small Keitech swimbaits, both on a single hook and on an Alabama rig, or small tubes rigged with a light jighead, till he dials in on which, and what color, the fish prefer. He spends time with each lure in his pool, memorizing the time each takes to sink. Once on the lake, he'll use that information to calculate how long it will take for the bait du jour to reach the smallmouth school he found.

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Schooling Bass - Cracking The Surface Fall 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Peter Anderson pg. 30 - 32)

Dave Smith's November Bait Selection

For Bassmaster Elite Series pro Dave Smith, November is an ideal month to hit the lake (when he's not toting a deer rifle). "It's finally cool out!" he says of the dropping temperatures. "Plus, this time of year the bass are eating a lot and putting on body weight for the winter. Bass and baitfish metabolisms are slowing, and the bait are schooling up for survival, so they're easy pickings if you can find 'em." Smith goes on to say that the bass are at their most predictable this time of year, as the majority of them follow baitfish into shallow areas, most often pockets or creeks. Here's what he throws in November.


Based on the water's clarity, Smith chooses either a black-and-blue or green pumpkin jig, opting for the darker hue in darker water. "Since their metabolism is slowing down, I'll often go to a lighter weight, like 3/8 ounce, so it falls slower. You'll get a lot more bites on the fall this time of year," he says. "You'll also catch more swimming that jig, especially in shallow water, and a light jig is better for that." When fish are shallow, Smith targets cover in the backs of pockets, and he hits bluffs when the fish are deeper.


Since the bass are so dialed in to baitfish, they're often harassing their prey, pushing them to the surface. When Smith sees lots of surface activity, he pulls out a buzzbait. "It's kind of a tossup between this and a walking bait, but I like a buzzbait because you can cover more water with it," he says. "Plus, this is a good way to get bigger fish to show themselves." Smith likes a Lunker Lure buzzbait or any one that positions the blade in such a way that it clacks the head upon retrieve.

Medium-running crankbait:

With the bass focusing on shad, it makes sense to give them what they're after. Smith likes Bandit's 200 Series or a Strike King KVD HC square bill, depending on the depth and cover. "This is good for hitting shallow points and pockets, or any laydowns I might come across," he says. Once again, water clarity dictates color.


Smith is pretty open-minded concerning lure selection, but when it comes to spinnerbait fishing, he's insistent upon a War Eagle spinnerbait, and mouse is his favorite color. He also likes a gold and silver blade. "I'll use this to parallel bluffs in a 1/2-ounce size, and it's good in shallow water in the 3/8-ounce," Smith says. "If there are trees around, I'll bring it in at a pretty good pace, then kill it right next to a tree and let it fall."

What Dave Smith Throws In November November 2013 Bassmaster (David Hunter Jones pg. 26)

Edwin Evers - Crankbait Or Spinnerbait In The Fall?

Bassmaster Elite Series pros carry hundreds of different lures each time they hit the water. While each type of lure has a time and place, fast-moving baits like crankbaits and spinnerbaits often get the call as water temperatures cool during the fall. Once you've narrowed your selection down to these two different styles of baits, how do you decide which one to tie on? Oklahoma pro Edwin Evers admits that it's a tricky question to answer, and the correct answer can change on a daily basis. "I can't tell you why, when or how; it's just one of those things that you have to try yourself," he says, referring to the decision of using a crankbait or a spinnerbait. That being said, Evers typically reaches for a shallow running square-billed crankbait as his first option. "The square bill crankbait is where I'm going to start, because, for me, it's my meat and potatoes," he says.


During fall in Oklahoma, I'm usually targeting shallow water in the backs of pockets and creeks with stained or dirty water.

Lure Selection & Presentation:

A square-billed crankbait, like a Bomber BB5, is an awesome bait because it's so erratic. "I can burn the bait down a log, and it will hit the wood and deflect off to the side and trigger a bite." If he is able to generate some strikes on a crankbait, Evers will experiment with different sizes to find the best possible option. Often, he'll increase the size of the offering to entice a bigger bite and match the prevalent forage. "I like a bigger bait in the fall because the shad have had all year to feed," says Evers. Evers has had success throwing XCalibur's Xcs300 Square Lip crankbait, which is 3 inches in length and creates a bulky profile in the shallow water. While Evers favors a crankbait in the fall, he points out that there are times when a spinnerbait is the most productive option. "At times, the fish want something that's a little more subtle and moving slowly through the area," he says. "That's when I'll go with a big spinnerbait and reel it down a log or past a stump. Evers uses speed and deflection to generate strikes with a crankbait in the fall but takes the opposite approach when slinging a spinnerbait. "I'll use a slower gear ratio reel for my spinnerbaits," he says. "It helps me slow the bait down and let the big blade thump. My goal isn't to burn the bait back to the boat - I want a slow, throbbing action." When it comes to spinnerbait blades, Evers favors a large No. 7 willowleaf. The size of the blade mimics the larger baitfish and also allows for a slow and steady retrieve.

Crankbait Or Spinnerbait In The Fall? September 6, 2013 Bassmaster (Matt Pangrac)

Jerkbait Fishing Year-Rround With Kelly Jaye

Every bass angler has his or her niche, no matter if you're a recreational or a pro-angler. For example, the Denny Brauers of fishing enjoy throwing their favorite jigs while the followers of Kevin VanDam prefer to toss crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Bassmaster Elite Series angler Kelley Jaye is no different; his expertise is fishing a jerkbait. "I enjoy fishing jerkbaits for the same reason Denny Brauer enjoys jigs or David Fritts enjoys crankbaits. I have caught a ton of fish on them and have a ton of confidence with jerkbaits. They allow me to cover a lot of water, fish fast, and I can load the boat in minutes," said the Alabama pro. He successfully used a jerkbait during the Beaver Lake FLW tour major in April 2012, where he threw suspended jerkbaits to target bass on transition banks that lead from spawning flats to deeper water and finished ninth in the event. "I've won countless tournaments on a jerkbait," he said. "I won a Bassmaster Weekend Series event in February 2012, scored a 2nd in a BFL Super Tournament with a jerkbait. I placed 20th in an Everstart Tournament, a 13th and a 9th place FLW Tour Tournament finishes then a 5th in a BFL and an 18th Bassmaster Open all in the last 14 months on one single jerkbait."


The deepest Jaye has retrieved a jerkbait is 10 feet. In the winter, he will add enough weight so that the jerkbait will slowly sink. He noted this is usually when he uses the sweep method instead of jerking. Jaye uses suspending jerkbaits all the time with 100 percent fluorocarbon line and makes long casts when not targeting a specific target. "I keep enough slack in my line so the lure darts back and forth underwater. If I want to keep the lure in a certain strike zone longer, such as around a floating dock, I keep a lot of slack so when I jerk the bait it will move side to side more then back towards the boat," he said. Jaye pauses his jerkbait, under normal temperature situations, for one-second max between twitches when the water temperature is above 60 degrees. "I fish them where the fish are," the pro explained. "If it is pre-spawn or spawn, I fish them around transition banks from spawning areas to deeper water. In post spawn, I like to fish around piers, floating docks and laydowns or brush." Jaye made it a point to note a jerkbait will work all year. Though he's found it works best during pre-spawn and during the fall when the fish are keying in on baitfish as the water cools back down. This does not mean anglers can't catch fish all year on jerkbaits. He catches fish during every month of the year on them.

Lure Selection:

Jaye uses a Smithwick Rattling Rogue about 90 percent of the time. In some lakes, when the fish are a little more finicky he uses a Spro Mcstick. Jaye notes it has a smaller profile than the Rogue and he can work it just as aggressively with a more subtle action. During winter months, a slower presentation is needed, so then he switches to a Megabass 110. As with every technique, there are several lures that can get the job done. "The jerkbait I use is not really any different from anyone else's," said Jaye. "However, I do have some hand painted colors that I like." Jaye noted jerkbaits are versatile, because anglers can alter the presentation by changing hook sizes, adding extra split rings for weight, adding lead tape strips and using custom painted colors. When worked properly, he explained, they can go through brush, around piers, points, grass lines, ripped through hydrilla and used in other ways to trigger strikes. As with all tournament anglers, Jaye is always looking for an edge against his fellow competitors. "I would say that I am creative in the way I work a jerkbait by the speed I work it when the water starts to war," he said. "I also throw them through brush and laydowns, where many people prefer weedless baits. I think it gives the fish something they are not used to seeing."

Jerkbait Gear:

"I always use 14 pound test fluorocarbon," he explained. "I've found that it's not too heavy to make the jerkbait lose its action. It's also big enough to withstand abrasion and short strikes at the boat without breaking your line. It's just a good all-around size for me." Jaye uses a 7 foot medium heavy rod with soft tip, when throwing a jerkbait. One thing he's found is a lot of people use shorter rods with lighter action, but he likes a long rod, which allows him to make long casts. His goal is to make the jerkbait walk-the-dog under water when he's working it. "A lot of guys use lighter rods to help keep fish from throwing the lure or pulling off," he said. "With sharp hooks and the drag set properly, a medium heavy rod will work fine and has the backbone to pull big fish out of cover such as laydowns and piers." Jaye uses a reel with a 7:1 gear ratio. He's found a smooth reel that casts a mile and a high speed gear ratio takes the line up as the angler jerks the rod helps someone maintain the same rod position during a retrieve.

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Jerky Jerks Fall 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (P.J. Pahygiannis) pg. 46 - 47)

Kelly Jordan - Bass Fishing's Forgotten Fall Patterns

While most early fall advice focuses on shallow cranking, a few pros have kept these lesser-known tactics to themselves for success in the transition between seasons. "This time of year, you need to find the baitfish fast, and when you can't see them, lipless crankbaits are one of the best ways to do it," he says. "You can cast these things a mile, and fish them at any depth."


"I'll typically stick to shallow flats either in the main lake or in creek channels, wherever there is activity," he says. "The beauty of these baits is that they're incredibly versatile. "I'll burn it over the tops of grass and across shallow flats, or if they're deeper I'll let it sink and hop it off the bottom in a yo-yoing action. This comes in handy when a cold front comes through that may have killed some shad off and the bass are looking to pick up an easy meal on the bottom."

Lure Selection:

While most anglers are tossing square-billed crankbaits, Kelly Jordon goes against the grain when he pulls out his Lucky Craft LV-500 lipless crankbait. Jordon prefers a 1/2-ounce LV-500 in chrome and blue and will use 30-pound-test Spiderwire Ultra Cast if he's fishing around shoreline grass, and 12- to 20-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon when in open water. He will use heavier fluorocarbon if he wants a faster fall rate, and lighter for a slower fall.

Bass Fishing's Forgotten Fall Patterns September 1, 2013 Bassmaster (David Jones)

Late Fall Transition With Mike Iaconelli

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Michael Iaconelli begins with the "late fall or the fall transition". As the year makes its way into this later junction, he noted that an angler will start to see the subtle clues. A light jacket in the morning will become a heavier jacket and warmer clothes will be worn throughout the day. Temperature highs will start to peak in the 70's, days will become noticeably shorter and the grass will start to appear dead and brown. It will dislodge and float away. "Just like we are aware of the changes that signal it is late fall, the fish are instinctually aware of it and they react to them also," he explained. It is like the bass are sitting down to a big meal and filling up at Outback Steakhouse. As it gets later into the fall, filling their belly is not their primary focus. Now, the thing on their mind is making their way to the place they are going to winter and you will find them on their journey between Outback Steakhouse and their winter home." The voyage from the fish's feeding frenzy and their winter vacay spot can be a short stretch or a long expanse. "The distance they go varies on any body of water," said Ike. He recalled a DNR study completed on the Delaware River where radio transmitters followed bass during this period, revealing a traveling distance of 20 to 30 miles.


"Even though we know their winter journey is on their mind, they still have to eat and so we can still catch 'em, but we fish for them differently now," he stated. "We know they winter in the deepest, most vertical breaks relative to the body of water they are in and we also know where we were catching them in their fall feeding phase. Now, the road they will travel becomes real obvious. We know those places we were killing them in the spring and we know where they are going for the winter (again, the deepest, most vertical break) and we connect the dots for their routes and look for their stopping places along the way. You can see, it all begins to come full circle. Bass don't aimlessly wander and a fisherman can predict their path." Although they may take the same roads, Iaconelli did reveal a difference in the sweet spots on their highways regarding the seasons. He explained that the stopping places in spring, on the way up from their winter hideaway had more to do with where the bait was, while their stopping places on the road to their winter lodging has more to do with resting stops along the way. "If you look closely, their rest stops become obvious," said the Bassmaster Classic champ. "They are places that break the monotony and especially in fall, hard spots become super key. They don't like dead or dying vegetation. They do like cover or bottom with a hard composition. Look for an outcropping of rocks or if you're on a lake, follow the contour lines. If you see nothing except one big house or a large dock or stump or log that extends across the contour line, that will be where they stop." Iaconelli reminded us that even though it is late fall, it is still fall; therefore the bass still tend to travel in packs and reload on those "juicy, little hard spots". He also noted that sonar is critical at this time of year and tops the list as a key tool to find those hard spots that the bass seek out. "I've found some of the very best hard spots, specifically in the last three or four years on my Lowrance with Structure Scan and Side Scan."

Rapala DT Crankbait:

Ike readies for the late fall bass battle with his usual two-prong approach of power and finesse baits. He starts with a crankbait. "I hate to say it again, but it's true, you just can't beat the crankbait for what you've got to do here," he continued. "Specifically for late fall, a crankbait is a workhorse to find key areas and to trigger fish to bite. Again, I use the Rapala DT's in a dives-to size that is relevant to the depth that I'm fishing."

Molix Lover:

Next in the angler's arsenal is a vibrating jig or chatter-style bait. "It is amazing how many people that pick this up in the spring, don't pick it up now," he commented. "This is an unbelievable technique for late fall. It is like a combination of the best of a spinnerbait, jig and crankbait. It's not my favorite in the heat of the summer or in winter transition, but something about the movement in the middle temperature time of spring and fall makes it super good." Ike uses the Molix Lover for its "harder, identifiable thump" and free swinging hook. He uses a specific retrieve called a feathering technique when fishing the Lover. "I find the hard spot, maybe it is a little group of rocks and I cast beyond it," he explained. "I literally let it sink to the bottom and then move the rod tip slowly from 3 o'clock to 12 o'clock, reeling in the slack, but not keeping it super-tight. It thumps on the lift and the vibration is slower on the fall. It is kind of like slow rolling a spinnerbait or yo-yoing a trap, but much slower."

Berkely Flat Dawg:

When he switches to his finesse applications in late fall, he stated there is nothing better than a stick bait. "There are a lot of ways to fish a stick bait," he added. "You can Texas-rig them, fish them weightless, Carolina rig them, there are just so many ways; but in late fall, knowing they're on their stopping points, I like to use a wacky jig head." Iaconelli has designed his own version of a soft stick bait in the Berkley Flat Dawg. Unlike the rounded stick baits that come to mind, the Flat Dawg boasts two flattened sides to increase the movement and catch more water. It also features a crook tail for more action on the backend. "The tail is a key modification," he said. "It is offset a little more than 1/8 inch, but on the fall it wobbles and shakes like no other stick bait that you've seen." Tying it on with the VMC Wacky Weedless Jig Head with the light wire weed guard, Ike generally chooses sizes at 1/16 to 1/4 oz. "That is a good rule of thumb to follow," he added. "On occasion, I will go bigger. I pick the lightest weight that will get through the cover and maintain bottom contact. When fishing this, it is best to put the bait right on your target (the hard spot). You don't want to make long casts past your spot. This is when precision target casts are the key. It must fall on a semi-slack line. If it is too tight, you will lose the action and it will pendulum away from the spot. If it is too slack, the fish can bite it and leave and you won't even feel it. When I hit my hard spot, I lift and fall the bait as many times as I can until it gets away from the spot. Then, I make another pinpoint cast and do it again."

Berkley The Jerk:

The next finesse bait that Ike pulls out is a soft plastic jerk bait. "It is kind of a twist on a power bait, but it still counts as a finesse bait," he added. "I fish The Jerk by Berkley. Other plastic swimbaits have a forked tail, but this one has a cupped paddle tail for more action. Water catches in the cup and makes it vibrate." Iaconelli rigs The Jerk one of two ways, depending on the size of the baitfish he is finding. One way is on a VMC Swimbait head in 4/0 or 5/0 when replicating bigger forage like adult gizzard shad, hitch and tilapia. He will also fish it Texas-rigged, by threading it on a VMC Jig Head, generally in 1/8 to 3/8 oz weights. "If the forage is smaller, like smelt or cisco, I will trim it a 1/2 to 1 1/4 inches for a more compact presentation on the jig head," said Ike. "Trimming it down changes the profile, but doesn't change the action on the jig head. It still has the same type of darting, erratic movement, like when it is weightless, but when you kill it, it planes or glides down with a faster fall."

Late Fall Gear:

As always, Ike suggested choosing colors by matching the hatch. Just like in the fall feed, he is crankin' with a 7' Veritas composite rod. For the feathering technique of the vibrating jig, he opts for a shorter rod for more control over the lure and because it forces him to slow down. He uses a 6 1/2 ft medium heavy Veritas rod and compared the need for the shorter length for this technique to be similar to using a shorter rod when spoon fishing. He adds a 7:1 Abu Garcia Revo Premier reel, noting that often when the fish hits the Lover, they come towards the boat and he needs the quickest way to pick up the line. For finessing, his Flat Dawg rod is a 7' Veritas spinning rod with 6 to 10 lb Trilene fluorocarbon. He uses a 7'4" medium heavy spinning rod for The Jerk and fishes with Fire Line Braid and a 10 to 12 lb fluorocarbon leader of 12 to 18 inches, often using a barrel swivel for less line twist.

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Fall Transition Time Fall 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Jody Only pg. 64 - 66)

Targeting Deep Structure Bass With Brandon Card

Everybody knows that when fall arrives and the first few cold fronts begin lowering water temperature, shad and bass move to the backs of the creeks where the latter gorge on the former, storing up fat reserves for winter. Anglers crowd together on shallow flats and fling lipless crankbaits, soft plastic stickbaits and other shad-type lures to get in on the action. And "everybody" is exactly why Brandon Card of Caryville, Tenn., sticks with deep water and structureholding bass in September and October.


He explains, "When you check winning patterns on the [Bassmaster] Elite circuit, nine out of 10 times the winners were doing something different. It's very common for most anglers to stick with the predictable patterns while the winner hits on something everybody else has overlooked. "And I think this is the case with deeper fish in early fall," Card continues. "Not all bass move to the backs of the creeks when it starts getting cooler. Many are still holding on deep ledges and points and humps. And a lot of times in September and October, this is where the bigger fish are. You may get more bites back on the shallow flats, but in my experience, you'll get more quality bites by bumping crankbaits and swimbaits and jigs around on the deep stuff." So, Card, B.A.S.S.'s 2012 Elite Series Rookie of the Year, focuses primarily on deeper water in early fall, and he has a proven system for doing so. Anglers who buy into his logic and copy his methods may discover bass they won't have to share and that may provide a heavy sack in tournaments or an action-packed day of fishing fun. Card begins, "This time of year, I use my electronics to look for a combination of likely structure and baitfish, and I check two specific types of structures.

One, I look for classic dropoffs, underwater points and humps. And two, I focus on bluff banks and specifically on transition areas where vertical banks taper out to become sloping banks." Card continues, "Sometimes I find bass on these structures in main-lake areas, but in early fall I find more of them in the deeper parts of tributary creeks. In this case, I think these are fish that may be moving back to the flats but haven't gotten there yet." Card starts his fishing day at the mouths of selected creeks, idling around and watching his graph for baitfish returns. He continues, "I want to see how deep the shad are holding. Then when I learn this, I start coordinating with my contour map to find nearby structure at the same depth. "For instance, let's say most shad are hanging at 12 feet deep, and my map shows a nearby creek channel ledge at this same depth. That's a prime place to check. Or say there's a submerged point that runs out to 30 feet deep. I'll locate that point and focus on the portion that's 10 to 15 feet deep and ignore the rest of the point." Card notes that sometimes he finds a place where baitfish are overwhelmingly abundant. "In this case, I'll avoid the spot," he notes. "There's too much competition from natural prey. "Instead, I like to find structures where there are just isolated schools of baitfish, and it'll be easier to gain a bass' attention with my bait."

Lure Selection & Presntation:

"I depend on an arsenal of baits to fish these spots," he continues. "I'll start with a Floatback diving crankbait (FB 10/25). It's my go-to bait for covering water and locating bass. But, say I catch a bass on the crankbait but don't get any more bites. Then I'll come back and work the spot with a swimbait rigged on a 1/2-ounce jighead, followed by a football jig rigged with a twin-tail grub, and sometimes I'll follow this with a 5-inch flutter spoon. Using this menu of baits produces more fish than casting one bait alone." (Card uses shad colored crankbaits and swimbaits, green pumpkin and orange jigs/trailers and chrome spoons.) If there is current running over the structure, Card positions his boat so he can cast and retrieve these lures in the same direction that the current is flowing. However, if there is no current running, he trolls around and fishes a chosen spot from different angles to learn which retrieve direction the fish respond to best. When fishing bluff banks, Card casts to areas where there are shelves extending out at the same depth where shad are holding. Also, he keys on zones where a vertical wall transitions to a sloping bank and on "rock washes" where a steep bank is eroding and rocks are piled up beneath the surface. "I don't try to check these areas with my electronics, since the fish blend in tight to the slope or to the bottom, and it's hard to see them," he advises. Card adds, "One more thing I always do is keep a rod rigged with a Floatback Walker topwater bait on my boat's deck. It's not uncommon this time of year for bass to herd shad to the surface and feed on them in the jumps. When they do this, if I'm ready, I can usually pick off an extra fish or two."

How To Target Deep Structure Bass September/October 2013 Bassmaster (Wade L. Bourne pg. 64 - 65)

Todd Faircloth's Early Fall Lure Selection

According to Bassmaster Elite Series pro Todd Faircloth, there's no more important factor to finding bass in the early fall than first finding the baitfish. Whether it's shad, herring or bream, bass' top priority this time of year is filling their belly. "In the fall, the shad make a migration to the backs of creeks, and the bass follow right along with them; it's really kind of textbook stuff," Faircloth says. "But, you've first got to find where they are in the creek, be it at the mouth, halfway or all the way back. The easiest thing to do is look for signs of baitfish on the surface, then on your electronics. I usually start halfway in." Faircloth goes on to say that fall is one of his favorite times to be on the water. Why? Many folks are gearing up for hunting season, the days are a little cooler, and there's no better time to catch big numbers of bass.

Strike King Premier Pro Model jig:

"This is a very versatile bait that I can fish around docks, laydowns or whatever's around, be it deep or shallow," he says. He most often tips a 1/2-ounce Okeechobee craw model with a green pumpkin Strike King Rodent or Rage Craw. He flips it, pitches it or even swims it if the occasion presents itself. He chucks it on his signature series 7-3 CastAway Triple Threat rod mated to a Shimano Chronarch spooled with 20-pound-test Sunline fluorocarbon.

Strike King Red Eye Shad:

"This is something I'll use toward the backs of the creeks or anywhere there's a flat. There doesn't have to be grass in the area, but if there is, that's a plus," he says. "You can cover a lot of water with it, too. Be mindful of baitfish activity." He uses his signature series CastAway Todd Faircloth Shallow Crankin' rod, a 7-3 number, with a Chronarch and 16-pound Sunline fluorocarbon. Chrome-and-blue or any of Strike King's "sexy" colors in a 1/2-ounce model get the nod.

Strike King KVD 1.5:

"I'll fish this in the same areas as the Red Eye Shad, but where there might be a little bit more cover, like laydowns or stumps or other things that'll snag the trap," he says. Contrary to what many folks believe about a square bill, most often this crankbait's most effective anti-snag feature is its buoyancy rather than the square bill, though the bill does help in deflection.

Strike King KVD Splash:

"I'll fish this anywhere there's schooling activity or around cover like docks, wood or on flats. Basically whatever's present, if there's baitfish activity on the surface," Faircloth says. A regular shad color is his go-to, and he throws it on a 7-foot medium action mag CastAway rod with a Chronarch spooled with 16-pound Sunline monofilament.

What Todd FairclothThrowns In Early Fall September/October 2013 Bassmaster (David Hunter Jones pg. 26)

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