The fall turnover

Stephen Headrick

About the author

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick is better known to the bass fishing world as the Smallmouth Guru. He lives in Celina, Tenn., and is the owner of Punisher Lures.

This week we need to talk about the fall turnover. In some parts of the country, we might be talking about it a little late, but, in other parts, it's not happened yet. My ideas are based on experience. I'm not a biologist.

Don't be too tough on me if everything I say isn't backed up by science. I promise it's backed up by fishing. The fall turnover usually occurs when the water temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees. What happens is that the water gets cold on top and falls to the bottom. That stirs everything up and makes a mess.

There are leaves and things floating and suspending everywhere, and the water gets a darker look to it. It can get nasty. A lot of guys don't like this. They say it makes the fishing tougher. I disagree — at least with smallmouths. For me, it's a great time to go fishing.

For one thing, fall turnover will make the brown bass move shallow. Just before the turnover, smallmouths are about as deep as they'll ever be. Even if you have experience fishing very deep, it can be tough. You have to find them, get them to bite, detect that bite and then get a good hookset. That's a lot of things to do. Another thing is that during the turnover they don't eat minnows much.

They're more bottom-oriented — crayfish and things like that. The darker water helps, too. You don't have to be so worried about spooking them. They can't see your line, and the boat doesn't make such a heavy shadow on the bottom. The best lure at this time of the year for me is a jig, but you have to know what's going on in your lake. It's important to match the local forage.

My first thing is always size. If the crayfish and other stuff on the bottom are small, your jig should be small. Think about size as profile. It isn't how long a jig is, or how much it weighs, as much as it's about the profile the lure makes under the water. Your skirt and trailer have a lot to do with this. A big skirt that moves around a lot will look big.

A small skirt with short strips will look small. The same thing is true with plastics. Usually, I go with dark colors because the water's dark. For some reason, they can see a dark object better when the water's darker. Browns, blacks, purples or deep blues are my favorites. I have better luck around rocks than I do around wood, during the turnover. I think that's because bottom dwelling forage hangs around rocks more, but I can't be sure why.

I know it's true that rocky areas produce better, so that's where I fish. A lot of guys don't like the turnover, but I love it. Try it, and see what happens. Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me at Stephen@thesmallmouthguru.com.

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