You can find bass in predictable locations in the fall. These are ambush points where the resident bass regularly feed. But now, with the increased number of shad schools roaming their creek or cove, opportunities for bass to utilize these prime feeding locations go up.
Keep in mind, however, that the old adage of "find the shad and you will find the bass" does not always hold true. There are millions of shad, far more than there are bass. Schools of baitfish do not guarantee bass will be present. There is very little that is truly random about bass feeding patterns. Bass have a home range and will seldom travel far to find food, especially if the food is coming to them. The challenge is to locate the spots that give predators a feeding advantage as the schools of shad cruise through the area.
There is a flip side to this fall migration pattern that you should not ignore. Gizzard shad, especially larger ones that trophy bass like to eat, are often benthic feeders. That is, they graze on the organic goop that coats the lake bottom or timber, rock or riprap. They don't need to migrate in the fall to follow plankton. Schools of gizzard shad can stay offshore, in deep water virtually all year. Resident bass don't need to move when the buffet is right there in their living room.
So, in general, fall shad movements are fairly predictable and do offer an opportunity to find actively feeding bass more easily since they are concentrated in smaller areas in creeks and coves. Find the ambush points and, as schools of shad move through, the bass will light them up.
But remember that some portion of the bass population may have everything they need in offshore hangouts. Good oxygen, comfortable temperature and plenty of food means there's no need to migrate. So don't automatically abandon the areas where you were catching fish in the summer just because the leaves are turning colors. You have more options now than almost any other time of the year. Enjoy!
Originally published October 2011