Late Summer/Early Fall Transition

Tips For The Beginner

This isn’t intended to be an exhaustive article but rather one that will hopefully give you something to think about as we head into the early fall transition period. I don’t know how the weather has been in your part of the world this summer, but here in Middle Tennessee it has been Hot! Like I tell everyone, I’m 57 years old I sure don’t want to wish any days away, but I must admit I’m looking forward to some cooler temperatures and the fall fishing season.

 One of these days soon the leaves will turn brown, red and yellow and will begin to fall. Those incredibly crisp mornings will creep up on us.  You know the ones where jeans and a sweatshirt will replace shorts a thin t-shirt.  Man that’s going to great. But if you’re a bass fisherman other than a change in your physical comfort what will that mean to you? How does this time of the year differ? Or how is this time of the year similar to other seasonal changes? I hope that some of the information below will help you to be successful in this time of the year.

What Is Going On This Time Of The Year Anyway?

 I guess when you use the term seasonal, most people will automatically think Spring-Summer-Fall and winter. In allot of respects they would be correct. But to us bass fishermen we know that it go’s much deeper than that. Spring has to broken down into three segments or patterns (1) Pre-Spawn (2) Spawn (3) Post Spawn.  And the truth is in most larger lakes each of these three patterns can overlap somewhere all at the same time. For example. One of the lakes I guide full time here in Tennessee is Old Hickory. It is a very large river lake that stretches well over 60 miles. During the spring you can actually fish each one of these patterns somewhere in that 60 mile stretch as I said, all at the same time. It’s not unusual to have spawning fish in the upper end and pre-spawn fish in the middle and lower sections of the lake.  Then post spawn fish in the upper end and spawning fish in the middle, see where I’m going?   The same is true with late summer early fall patterns.  These developing patterns may not be as radical because we normally won’t have the huge swings in air and water temperatures in the fall as we do in the spring. But there are a lot of similarities.  Let’s take a look at a few of these.

 Late Summer/Early Fall Water Temperatures

 On Old Hickory I always find the earliest fall pattern bass in the same place I found the first spring spawning bass.  Where? The upper end of the lake.  Those upper end creeks and pockets that offer allot of cover and fresh water in running into the creek. And just like in the spring, when I find these fall pattern bass in the upper end I can find a different pattern (late summer pattern) bass in the mid and lower sections of the lake. Through the years of fishing Old Hickory and keeping records of each trip I have compiled what I feel is some interesting data. Now, before you saw the limb out from under me, please read this ENTIRE paragraph.  OK here we go, let me jump right in. I have noticed that water temperature change most definitely triggers these seasonal pattern changes. I can hear someone right now…”Well Whoop-T-Do- big deal that’s not new news Rick” As I said easy with the saw there buddy. Read on.

 Have you ever heard the term “Myth”?  Back in the mid 1960’s when I first started to seriously bass fish the hard fast rule was that bass wouldn’t spawn unless the water temperatures hit 65 degrees and they wouldn’t move into their fall patterns until the water temperatures fell back to 70 degrees or less.  You see this premise is based on specific temperatures.  And I would almost bet that there are many bass fishermen today that still live by that same premise. But through these 40 plus years I have found out that this just isn’t true.  You see as well intentioned as it was, this was a myth, information that has been passed down through the years that isn’t always accurate or even sometimes true. A recent example (that can be duplicated every year) is this past spring when I saw huge female bass on the nest when the water temperature was still in the mid to upper 50’s. Like wise my records show that on Old Hickory the key for early fall patterns isn’t 70 degrees but rather an 8-10 degree drop in water temperature. Right now we are running in the mid to high 80’s in much of our water on Old Hickory. So instead of a fall pattern kicking in at 70 degrees they actually can happen in the mid to upper 70’s. And once again this water temperature drop will always occur in the upper end of the lake first verses areas closer to the dam. I really believe that many bass fishermen are missing an early jump on fall bass by not realizing this fact about water temperatures.

 Another ingredient that normally will help push bass into a fall pattern is late summer/early fall rains. I’m not talking about a nice shower, but rather a good hard rain.  In recent years this heavy down pours have drawn the shad population up river into secondary ditches and creeks. I’m not sure what will happen this year because we have the largest shad population in Old Hickory from one end of the lake to the other that I have seen for a long time.  What we need on Old Hickory this winter is a good shad kill, but that is a whole different article.


As we move into this late summer/early fall transition period I can’t emphasize enough the  importance of watching you water temperatures in the upper regions of your lakes not for a specific temperature but rather those 8 to 10 degree drops that will happen it seems in a blink of an eye. Also watch for those heavy rains and bait fish movement.  In my opinion fall offers some of the absolute best bass fishing that most people can enjoy.

Rick McFerrin

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