When the thermometer starts dropping, the bass fishing starts heating up. Finding fall bait fish and catching bass can be one in the same. How many times have you heard, “Head to the backs of creeks arms, find the migrating shad, and you will catch all the bass your arms can handle.” There are some truths in this statement, shad do migrate to the back of creek arms in the fall and bass do follow them. However, just because you are in the middle of this feeding frenzy does not mean you will catch bass.
There are two main problems when trying to catch bass during their fall feeding binge. First is fishing pressure; it’s no secret that these shad and bass migrations happen. With the growing popularity of bass fishing, more and more anglers are on the water. Second is the competition between shad and your artificial bait. With a shad buffet line as far as bass can see, your bait has little chance of being noticed. When bass do notice your bait, more than likely the real thing is swimming next to it, and bass will choose the live shad every time. Anglers wanting to capitalize on fall bass fishing must search for less pressured waters and use baits that identically mimic the food source. Accomplish both and the catching can be of epic proportions.
To find less pressured waters, search for bays on the main lake. These bays can be bass gold mines and are often overlooked by anglers speeding into the major tributaries. Not all shad migrate to the backs of the creeks, and large populations of bass will stay with main-lake shad. Finding a bay with the predominant wind blowing into it can be loaded with shad. Bays filled with shad will have bass feeding on those shad.
A creek arm is a funnel, and all an angler has to do is search down that funnel to find how far the fish have traveled. This is easy for anglers to do, and most anglers take this route. It’s more difficult to find bass in main lake bays. There may be little reason to why certain ones are effective on a day to day basis. An angler has to commit to traveling and exploring in order to find the most effective bays, but once one is found it’s worth the effort. Use electronics, wind direction and birds to help you find the shad filled bays.
Bait choices can be a frustrating endeavor. The key is to keep trying. The first thing to do is get a good look at the shad the bass are eating. Determine type, size, and color. If the school of shad is active, eventually they will surface, or injured bait fish will float to the top of the water. After determining the shad’s size, start experimenting with other factors. Start adjusting the color, flash, and noise to fine tune the presentation. While working baits through and under the shad keep changing appearances until you find the magic key that will draw a strike.
Something to keep in mind while trying to trigger a strike is retrieve speed. There isn’t a reel made that can wind baits so fast a bass cannot catch them. During the fall feeding frenzies, shad do not just hover around waiting to be eaten. Baits moving at high rates of speeds can seem very natural to bass that are slashing through schools of baitfish. Lipless crank baits are very effective tools for catching schooling bass. You can burn them to mimic fleeing baitfish, or yo-yo them to imitate an injured baitfish. A lipless crank bait can also be used with a slow steady retrieve to attract the bigger fish picking off stragglers behind the schools. Most of all, a lipless crank bait can be cast long distances, enabling an angler to reach schooling bass when they pin shad on the surface.
Surface baits are also very effective when chasing bass in the fall. When using top water baits, speed can be key. I see so many anglers toss a popper style bait at a school of fish and let it sit, pop it, let it sit. In these fall feeding situations, bass are keying on very active prey; they are searching the surface for splashes and darting food. Schooling bass will ignore baits that sit motionless. Splash, jerk, and pop, to make as much commotion as possible with a surface bait, all the while keeping it on a steady retrieve. Buzzbaits are effective for these types of conditions.
There are many very effective techniques for catching schooling fish; way too many to list here. Bottom line: Pick your favorite, find schools of bait fish away from the crowd, and remember speed can be your friend. Keep all this in mind, and your next fall bass fishing trip just might be a catching frenzy versus watching a bass feeding frenzy.
Get the Net it’s a Hawg