Fall bass fishing is upon us. While many outdoorsmen turn to the woods to satisfy a primal desire to hunt, avid anglers will find more bass catching action than they can handle on their local waterways. How do I know fall bass fishing is here? The hummingbird migration has happened. What do hummingbirds have to do with bass fishing? Every year during the last week of September, an extraordinary amount of hummingbirds converge on the feeders we have in the back yard. When I see this, I can guarantee I will find shad migrating to shallower flats and creeks of my local waterways. It’s as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow; hummingbird migration is timed with the shad migration. Well at least here in the southern part of the United States.
Many anglers miss out on the beginning stages of the fall shad migration. In September, the daytime air temperatures are still rather warm, and no one is thinking about winter. However, daylight hours are dwindling. September 21rst is the Fall Equinox and the point when days start getting shorter. This early shift is so subtle humans hardly notice. However, to fish and wildlife this is an extremely noticeable turn of events.
Shorter daylight hours conversely means longer night time hours. The sun cannot warm the water as much during the day, and the cooling effects of darkness have longer to work. These two factors start dropping the overall temperature of the lakes. These cooler temperatures are a giant dinner bell to bass signaling two things loud and clear: 1. It’s time to get fat; 2. The tough times of winter are just around the corner.
Fortunately for bass, these cooler temperatures are very comfortable for shad. Shad start to gravitate towards the cooler surface water, then migrate to the backs of creeks feeding on different planktons being washed into the waterways. Bass instinct is to follow the shad and devour them until the water gets too cold.
As the water temperatures drop below 50 degrees, the shad start dying. This is the final stage of the Fall Feast and bass know it. Bass fishing at this time can be the best of the year; even better than the spring spawn. Bass have been feeding well throughout the fall and are fat and healthy. It is not uncommon to catch some of your largest bass of the year at the beginning of the winter season.
Depth/fishfinders are great tools to help you find the shad during the fall, but the best things to use are your eyes and ears. Water birds will tell you exactly where the shad are. Keeping an eye to the sky will alert you of shad as far away as a mile. Listening for the sounds of splashing will help you zero in on opportunities closer to the boat.
Another useful tool this time of year is your temperature gauge. Unlike the spring when you’re looking for the warmest water, you’re now looking for cooler water. Since the temperatures are on the decline, the surface of the lake will have these cooler temperatures. When you find areas of the lake that have dropped below 75 degrees, you’ll likely find the shad on the surface. Remember this is a comfortable temperature for shad, and they will seek it out. This is important to anglers because bass use the surface of the lake just like they would a sea wall. The surface of the lake effectively takes away half of the escape possibilities a shad has when being chased, making them much easier for a bass to catch. Knowing the bass are feeding more frequently on the surface gives anglers a narrower target area to search for opportunities.
Cold fronts also have a different effect on the bass this time of year; it can set off a feeding frenzy. The cold fronts expedite the transition from fall to winter; to a bass this translates to eat more and faster. They may bundle up in a bush until the front passes, but once the sun comes back out they will quickly be on the prowl again.
I love fishing for bass in the fall. I generally experience less angling pressure; the bass are hungry, and the weather is very pleasant– A good day in my book. Don’t miss out on some of the best bass catching days of the year, get on the water now.
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