Five tips for fall river bassing

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Steve Bowman

There may not be a better time to fish your local river than right now. The water’s probably stable, relatively clear and you’ll likely not have to deal with recreational boaters and other anglers. 

I follow five basic ideas at this time of the year. Here they are in their order of importance.

Find the bait

It’s always important to be around bait but there’s no time of the year when it’s as important as it is in the fall. I’m not saying you’ll never catch one in barren water, but one is about all it’ll be at the end of the day. Fall river bass are only interested in one thing — eating.

Finding the bait isn’t magic. Regardless of what it is it’ll be shallow and in cooler water. Look around in every place you can find and don’t fish until you do find it.

Fish flats near deeper water

If you find more than one place with bait, choose the one on a flat that’s near deeper water with wood on or near the break. River bait like a flat surface under them but, like almost everything else that swims, they also like cover.

This is river fishing. We’re not talking about a break like you find in a Tennessee River impoundment. The flat I’m talking about might be a foot deep and the drop might go down to 3 feet.

Use a lure that’ll cover water

You’re going to spend a lot more time looking and casting than you are catching. Using a bait that’ll cover water is by far the best option you have to find the bass. In most cases the water you’re fishing will be too shallow to get over the fish with your boat and electronics. 

My preference is a squarebill crankbait or a spinnerbait. I can fish them fast or slow and work them at various depths. Make sure that whatever you throw is about the size of the local baitfish. You don’t want anything that looks out of the ordinary.

Keep your color choices simple

If the water’s clear, I go with something that looks like a shad. They’re pretty much everywhere so I figure they look normal to a bass. If the water’s dingy — rare at this time of the year — I’ll tie on something with a little chartreuse in it so that they can see it better.

When all else fails

The ideas I’ve put out in this column are like every other idea you get in fishing. They might work most of the time but they won’t work all of the time. Fish are funny creatures. Sometimes they don’t do what they are supposed to do.

When that happens I flip to any available cover. I want a tube or something that looks like a baitfish, and I favor baitfish colors. You don’t see that a lot but I can tell you they work. When that tactic fails I go with the same baits in green pumpkin or  black-and-blue. There’s a reason those two colors are standards.

Fall river bass fishing can be a blast. Once you find them you can catch dozens. Take advantage of that.