It's well documented that nearly all of bass' movements in the late fall are related to forage, most notably shad. They change locales as the bait moves around the lake.
Kentucky pro Mark Menendez has found a system that keeps him in fish all day long, regardless of the conditions. Menendez does lots of his fishing on Tennessee River waters and says that every Classic that has been held in October has been won utilizing this approach.
"The last time I was out on the lake near my house, I caught 30 fish in just four hours by following the bait. It's a shad-gathering deal," Menendez says. "You can usually find some activity on top first thing, then they head back down; you just need to alter your approach. If you find active bait, then there's a good chance you've found bass."
Before he decides what to throw, Menendez will do a little graphing to find likely fish-holding structure. He likes flats and points that are adjacent to deep water. If he were in a tournament, Menendez would try and fill out a limit of smallmouth and spotted bass at these places, and, when it came time to cull, he would head to the creeks in search of largemouths. Once he's on a likely place, he takes the conditions into account before he makes cast No. 1.
"If it's a blustery fall day and there are waves on the lake, I like to throw a spinnerbait and cover water faster than if it's calm," he says.
Strike King's Premier Plus spinnerbait gets the nod for his wire-bait duties. He throws his spinnerbaits on 20-pound-test monofilament to keep them higher in the water column without having to use an ultra-fast retrieve. If the day is calmer and he can see baitfish activity, he reaches for a Strike King Spit-N-Shad, a topwater chugger.
As long as Menendez feels he can raise fish, he sticks with the Spit-N-Shad. If the bite stops or the wind picks up, he reaches for a lipless crankbait.
"After they're done hitting the topwater or the spinnerbait, I'll run a 1/2-ounce Strike King Red Eye Shad through the same places. They've typically just gone a little deeper," he says.
After they quit hitting a lipless crankbait, Menendez really slows things down and gets out the "co-angler special" — the shaky head rig.
"I like to drag the shaky head along the bottom to clean up any fish that are still hanging around," he says.
He uses a 3/16-ounce shaky head with a Strike King ElazTech Finesse Worm on 8-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line to pick up stragglers.
This pattern keeps Menendez in fish through Thanksgiving when a new approach is needed. He acknowledges that these late-season fish won't be the biggest fish of the year, but, as he says, "This is a quantity, not quality, kind of deal. It can be some incredible fishing."
Originally published October 2009