Along with the intense emotion that comprises the competitive fiber of Mike Iaconelli’s soul, there’s also a very fun-loving husband, father, and friend. In fact, he became genuinely excited about putting a scary werewolf mask over his head prior to passionately sharing his approach to catching bass in the weeks surrounding Halloween.
“It’s a cool time of the year,” says, Ike. “The fish are active again after a long hot summer, and they’re back to eating a lot more aggressively.”
He graciously pulled three lures from the storage compartments of his Bass Cat, and stressed repeatedly that he chose them in order of importance to him during autumn’s awesome days on the water. He first chose a Rapala DT06 crankbait, followed by a Molix spinnerbait, and thirdly, a lure he calls his ‘cleanup hitter’ when they stop eating cranks and spinnerbaits – the Berkley Havoc Beat Shad.
"Bait – whether it’s shad in the south, or green perch and alewives in the north - bait is the whole key in the fall,” says the 2006 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year. “All three of the lures I chose reflect my attention to bait at this time of year.”
As the name implies, his first pick in crankbaits is designed to run 6-feet deep, and comes in a wide variety of colors to match whatever the predominant baitfish in your favorite autumn fishery happens to be.
“I cover an immense amount of water with the DT 6 by starting near the mouth of a creek and working my way toward the back. I put the trolling motor on a pretty high speed, and cast perpendicular, and at 45-degree angles, across the first major depth change between the shoreline and my boat,” explains Iaconelli. “This helps me determine exactly how shallow they are, and whether they’re still near the main lake, or more toward the back of the creek.”
Speaking of the back of creeks, Iaconelli says that when bass really go gonzo into autumn’s most extreme feeding frenzy, that few baits outshine a spinnerbait.
“A lot of anglers know to look in the back of creeks for bass in the fall, but one key thing to remember is that it’s not just any creek or pocket, but instead focus on those that show a truly defined creek coming into them on your map – they tend to produce better,” emphasizes Ike.
As a rule of thumb, Iaconelli chooses willowleaf blades for clearer water, and rounder blades for dingy water. But again, ultimately, baitfish determine what spinnerbait he chooses more than any other factor. “If shad are the predominate forage, then I’m gonna choose silver blades. And if I’m around gold shiners, or yellow perch, then I’ll throw gold blades. To me, that’s more important than water color,” he explains.
This was Ike’s third choice for autumn fishing, but the grub-swimbait hybrid can be an important lure when bass thumb their nose at more aggressive crankbait and spinnerbait offerings.
“Not to sound like a broken record, but again, it’s about shad,” says Iaconelli. “The Beat Shad is my cleanup lure when they slow down on a spinnerbait or crankbait. I throw it in the same areas I’d throw a crank or spinnerbait this time of year, but I rig it on a 1/8-ounce VMC head and throw it on a spinning rod with 8 or 10-pound fluorocarbon,” explains the winner of the 2013 Bassmaster Northern Open on Lake Erie.
While werewolfs make for good European folklore – and in Ike’s case – Halloween masks – there’s nothing fictional about his teachings for finding and catching autumn bass. Remember – it’s all about the baitfish.