Fall: The tough transition time

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Brandon Card

Brandon Card

Tennessee’s Brandon Card, who competed for the University of Kentucky, is the first Bassmaster College Series angler to qualify for the Elite Series.

The late summer to early fall transition period can be the toughest time of the year for bass fishermen because bass are very scattered. I know it is my toughest time! They can be anywhere from a foot of water to 30 feet of water. I have a few tricks that I “fall” back on when the going gets tough. I hope they help you catch a few more fish.

Keep moving

If there was ever a time of year to try to run and gun like KVD, this would be it. Bass are scattered all over the place and you have to fish fast to find them. Some bass are still in their deep summer areas, while others have already made their move to the shallows. With no huge concentration in any locale, I tend to bounce back from deep to shallow, deep to shallow. In a month or so, the patterns will be more defined as bass chase baitfish schools, but right now except the fact that the pattern is really no pattern at all. Junk fishing at its best!

Crankbaits are your friends

Crankbaits are crucial this time of year. There are no better lures to for covering water than crankbaits. I always have a shallow square bill, medium runner, and a deep diving crankbait tied on this time of year. I use all of them frequently, but I bet that my square bill crank gets a little more use than the other two. I tend to spend a little more time shallow than I do deep, primarily because I’m more comfortable fishing shallow. At this time of year, I have a square bill crank in my hands the majority of the time when I’m beating the banks for fall bass. I will fish anything I come to including laydowns, rocks, docks and flats with stumps. The only time that I will not use a square bill is in real clear water. My crankbait selection is so broad, I don’t even want to start naming names; but I will tell you that fluorocarbon is a must. Berkley Trilene 100% Fluoro is all I crank with. I use 10-pound test for medium runners and deep divers and 15-pound for the square bills.

When all else fails…riprap

It sounds too easy, but I never count it out. Fishing riprap is a great way to catch bass when nothing else seems to work. The best times to fish riprap are when bass are transitioning from deep to shallow, like in early fall or early spring. Bass use riprap banks as stopping points on their way to and from creeks. The best riprap areas are usually around bridges that form a bottleneck in these creeks. I utilize all three crankbaits and cover all the depths of the riprap until I find out the depth that the fish are holding. After that, I pull out the shaky head and really go to work. It is hard to beat a shaky head finesse worm on riprap. A Jethro Ellie May finesse worm on a 1/8-ounce head is like candy to bass in early fall.  

These techniques may be simple but I guarantee that they work! Early fall is a squirrely time of year, and you can’t overcomplicate it. Just be mentally prepared for the fishing to be tough but if you stay moving you will be able to catch a good one here and there. Keep an open mind, and if you keep experimenting with crankbaits, you will find them. And if you don’t find them, go fish riprap!

Dare to fail. 

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