Fall topwater fishing

About the author

Brent Chapman

Brent Chapman

Brent Chapman is the 2012 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.

The warm summer days have faded away, replaced by the bitter chill of cold mornings and bone-chilling runs. Despite the dropping air temperatures, this is a great time to be on the water fishing. Bass are feeding up for the winter, and many folks have garaged their boats until the spring. During the fall it can feel like you have the whole lake to yourself.

Even though we may have changed our shorts and T-shirts to insulated pants and jackets, there are some things that you should not leave home without this time of year. I believe that there is a common misconception that the topwater bite dies out at the end of the summer.

Here in the Midwest there are quite a few of us that consider this time of year to be one of the best opportunities for good topwater fishing. In fact, there can be a great topwater bite going on even when snow begins to fall in November and December. Don't be afraid to fish on top with water temperatures in the 50s or even 40s. Anytime you have bass chasing baitfish up in shallow water, there’s an opportunity for a good topwater bite.

There are two baits that I keep with me long into the winter months, because they catch big fish. They have the added bonus that most other guys have quit throwing them, thinking the water is too cold. That leaves the big bites for those of us who like to throw topwater baits well into the fall.

I always keep a buzzbait and a walking bait rigged up and ready to go. The steady swimming action and the spray of water droplets being cast off by a War Eagle buzzbait perfectly mimics a school of baitfish fleeing across the surface. The sound and action of a buzz bait will draw strikes from big bass whether you fish it through heavy cover or in open water. As long as bass are pursuing baitfish at or near the surface, I will have a buzzbait at the ready.

My other fall/winter go-to bait is the Livingston Pro Sizzle. I can dial my trolling motor up and cover water quickly to search for active bass with this four-inch walking bait. Weighing in at 3/4-ounce, this bait is easy to cast long distances, allowing me to cover shallow flats without spooking fish. The side-to-side slashing action will fire up a school of fall bass like no other lure.

Working the Pro Sizzle at different speeds and even pausing it for a few seconds to rest motionless on the surface gives it a little more versatility over the buzzbait. If you happen to come across bass busting shad, this bait is perfect for making a quick cast to them before they have disappeared in deeper water.

Choosing the right places to fish topwater lures will increase your chances of connecting with quality bass during this time of year. I like to target the larger flats in the early part of fall, but as the season progresses I will move to the steeper areas, especially the rocky 45-degree banks. The rock seems to be the key component as winter approaches. Those areas will absorb heat and attract baitfish and invertebrates. Bass move around quite a bit this time of year, so any areas where bait is present can be productive.

Keep those surface baits tied on and you will soon agree that targeting these fish will put some big bites in your boat for a few more months.

My buzzbait gear:
• Wright & McGill Rick Clunn Reaction, Murky Square Bill rod
• Wright & McGill Skeet Reese Victory Casting Reel (7:1 gear ratio)
• 50- or 60-pound test Gama Torque 100% Spectra
• Trailer hook —always use a trailer hook!

My walking bait gear:
• Wright & McGill Rick Clunn Reaction, Murky Square Bill rod
• Wright & McGill Skeet Reese Victory Casting Reel (7:1 gear ratio)
• 50- or 60-pound test Gama Torque 100% Spectra (in ultra clear water, use a 12-pound-test mono leader)
• Add a second split ring to the rear hook (it allows the hook to move more freely)

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