The "Fall Transition" of Largemouth, Smallmouth and Spotted Bass just doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not like you turn a switch on or off and magically it’s happened.
Recently I wrote a brief article entitled Late Summer/Early Fall Transition Period that you can read by clicking on the Tips Archive tab of our web site www.tennesseebassguides.com. In this article I tried to give you a good understanding of how water temperature relates to triggering the fall transition process. It might help you to read that article first before finishing this one. The "Fall Transition" of Largemouth, Smallmouth and Spotted Bass just doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not like you turn a switch on or off and magically it’s happened. Rather, the length of this process is almost totally dependent on mother nature. How quickly the water temperature changes is the key to this process. And during this change you will find bass holding in different patterns in different parts of the lake.
Under normal conditions the upper regions of the lake will be the first to experience that "Right Drop In Water Temperature" that will propel bass into their Fall patterns. And depending on how large the lake is, bass in the middle portion of the lake might still be holding in "Late Summer Patterns" while bass further toward to lower end may not even be at that stage yet. Faced with these multiple patterns and changing water temperatures one of the best search baits I know of that can help you probe various water depths and help you cover as much water as possible is a crankbait. In the paragraphs below I want to share with you several different baits that I use and why I use them. My hope is that this information will help you crank your way to success this fall.
Let’s start with the deepest pattern fish and work our way on up. These would be the bass that more than likely would be in the lower region on up to mid lake during the late summer/early fall period. The water temperature that these bass are holding in would still be more or less the warmest portion in the lake. These fish may be holding on points that gradually get deeper as they extend out into the lake, or ledges that offers semi shallow water on it’s crest then suddenly drops off into deep water at the main channel. Depending on your type of lake they may be holding along old flooded river channel bends that still have stumps and rock. Many times these ledges will also have allot of sand and slit. But the one factor that always has to be there to make it a productive place is "Structure". My favorite crankbait to probe structure for these deep water bass is a Luhr-Jensen Hot Lips in one of three sizes. www.luhrjensen.com In the picture to the left the top bait is the 3/4 model, the middle bait is the 1/2 model and the bottom bait is the 1/4 size. On 10lb test the 3/4 model will run 18-24 feet deep, the 1/2 model will run 15-18 feet deep and the 1/4 model will run 12-16 feet deep. I like the way these baits "Dive" straight down immediately. Much of this can be attributed to the Deep Dive Tri-Lobe Power Lip and it’s computerized thin wall construction. These baits offer fantastic vibration and track incredibly straight. To get the most from these baits I use two different All Pro APX series rods. www.allpro.com The first is model number APX80HCA. This is a heavy action 8 foot casting rod with a forgiving tip that is absolutely fantastic for throwing big deep diving crankbaits like the 3/4 and 1/2 Hot Lips. If you have ever thrown a big deep bait like these on a rod that wasn’t suited for this technique you are well aware of how tired your arms and wrists can get. Having the right rod makes a tremendous difference. The second is the APXCS7MHCA. This is a 7 foot medium heavy casting crankin rod that is ideal for the 1/4 model Hot Lips. All APX rods have unmatched sensitivity that is transmitted through the graphic rings on the handle that will allow you to feel every piece of structure that you pull these Hot Lips over. This is an important ingredient that I can’t emphasize enough. You need to be able to feel the Hot Lips beating and banging it’s way through-around and on the structure you are fishing looking for a reaction strike. When you catch a bass work that area completely, many times there will be several holding on the same piece of structure. Using my electronics I always like to start on the shallow part of the point or ledge and work my way out to the deeper water varying my retrieve as I work my way along. Color selection is something that you will have to experiment with. I always lean toward a shad colored bait when I can, but other colors can be just as deadly. Lure Jensen makes the three Hot Lips models in over 40 colors that can help you match your water color needs.
Medium Depth Crankbait
Under normal conditions as the water temperature begins to cool the bass will begin to move to and stay around shallower structure. Instead of the 20-30 foot plus water they may migrate to the 10-15 foot range. This migration is what I call a Pre-Fall which is that short window of time between late summer and early fall. This may happen in the same geographical areas of the lake that you found summer pattern bass. The only difference is the bass just move up shallower on the points or will hold on structure nearer to the crest of a ledge or channel bend. Remember I said we were dependent upon Mother Nature? A good example of this is early Fall rains and cold fronts. When the rains and cold fronts come 9 times out of 10 it will cause the bait fish to move further back into the creeks and pockets and what’s the next step? Your Right! The bass will follow right along taking up residency around the shallower structure that lines the creek channels waiting to gulp down bait fish as they swim by or chase bait out in open water. When this happens I turn to the Luhr-Jensen Radar 10 and Radar 13 crankbaits. These are super tough baits that you can beat and bang through some of the heaviest structure and they will just keep running true. They cast like a bullet and have a tight vibration that not only is appealing to feeding fish but will entice a reaction strike as well. I have a tendency to keep my crankbaits moving right along when fishing around allot of bait fish. The reason is I don’t want the bass to have a chance at a real close look and be able to determine that it isn’t real. During this time of the year I always have at least two sometimes three Radars tied on at the same time, some on 8lb test and others on 10lb test. Colors once again is something that you may have to experiment with (20 colors to choose from) but I always will have a shad color of some sort tied on. I use the following All Pro APX rods when throwing these baits. First is the 7 foot crankin rod APXCS7MHCA that we talked about above and the other is the APX7MST 7 foot medium spinning rod. The APX 7 foot spinning rod is a beauty. It’s extremely light (in weight) unbelievably strong and ultra sensitive. These rods are manufactured with a reel seat or with a Tennessee handle. For those of you that might not be familiar with a Tennessee handle….there is no reel seat-you tape your reel to the handle where it suits you best. This gives you the ability to balance the rod exactly as you want it. I joke with my clients that I can feel a bass getting ready to nail a crankbait before the strike actually happens with this rod. All joking aside these rods are phenomenal. And when you match the APX and Radar Crankbaits together you better get the net!
Now let’s assume that we are in a full fledge Fall pattern. The water temperature has dropped to that "magic number" for your lake and the bass have one thing on their mind and that’s lunch! The bass have moved into the major creeks that have plenty of cover such as standing timber-fallen logs-brush along the shore line-maybe some grass and plenty of bait fish. The best creeks will also have flowing water and creek channels that will bend in close to the shore line. On some larger lakes the major creeks will also have smaller streams that feed them as well. The mouths of these feeder streams are always a great place to look for feeding fish. Bass at this point of the year can be found in varying depths of water but many active feeding fish will be shallow. Shallow water conditions anytime of the year is tailor made for the Luhr-Jensen Speed Trap. These baits are offered in three sizes 1/16 which is approximately 2 inches long, 1/8 which is 2 1/2 inches long and the 1/4 which is 3 inches long. The Speed Trap is one of the best shallow crankbaits that I have ever used in my near 50 years of bass fishing. These baits have a thin wall construction that produces the action and vibration of wood lures but retains the consistency of an injected mold body. I have two rods set up for fishing the Speed Traps. The first is the APX 7 foot medium rod we discussed above with 8lb test line. The other is the same rod filled with 6lb test line. I throw the 3/4 Speed Trap on 8lb test when I want to reach the 8 foot level and the 1/8 and 1/16 on 6lb test for 6 foot or less. I love throwing these baits on light line in and around shallow structure but I have also watched huge Smallmouth in some of our clear lakes come up from deep water to nail these small baits. What a bait! The Speed Traps are available in more that 40 colors that will meet all your shallow crankbait needs.
Let’s do a quick recap. (1) Always select a Luhr-Jensen crankbait that will run deeper than the water you are fishing. You want the bait to be bouncing off of everything between you and the boat. (2) Don’t be fooled into believing that small crankbaits like the Speed Traps don’t catch big fish…This is a myth that is proven wrong over and over every year. (3) Use a ultra sensitive rod like the AllPro APX series at least 7 feet long that is designed for crankbait fishing. You will be amazed at the additional hook ups you will have during the year. (4) Watch the water temperature in the upper regions of your lake for the "Right Temp" (5) Watch for bait fish movement back in the major creeks (6) Don’t oversize your line….give the crankbait the ability to work like it is designed to do. (6) Most important "Have Fun This Fall" crankin in those bass!