5 clues to fall patterns

Bass are starting to move into the creeks on most of our lakes as they begin to feed up prior to winter.

There are five things I look for to tell me when and where to find fish this time of year:

1. Water temperature

The fall pattern is triggered whenever the surface temperature drops 10 degrees below summer temperatures. It’s generally triggered by cooler nights and frontal changes which we’re seeing throughout the nation.

That temperature change can vary from lake to lake and is relative to different regions of the country, so there is no “magic” water temperature I can give you other than to pay attention changing water temperatures which dictate the fall pattern.

The cooler temperatures draw bait into the creeks and draw them shallower and the bass follow.

Once I know the fall pattern has begun, I use water temperature to tell me what part of the fall pattern the fish are in and which baits to use.

For example, after a cool night and when there is steam coming off the water during early morning, the shad won’t be as active as they will be when the sun warms the surface. Bass probably won’t be chasing early, so it’s unlikely I will get a spinnerbait or topwater bite. I will use a shallow crankbait and fish it with a medium retrieve to trigger a reaction bite. When I see the water temp rise and the shad getting active and bass schooling, I’ll switch to a spinnerbait or topwater.

2. Baitfish

This is the No. 1 key to fall fishing. Find the bait and you will find the bass. The shad are moving into those creeks with incoming water that brings in nutrients and builds plankton on which the shad will feed. The major creeks, especially after a heavy rain, generally attract the most bait and bass.

3. Birds

If I see gulls working a creek or notice herons standing on the banks, I know the bait is there. And if I see two herons trying to get on the same point, I’m definitely going to fish there.

4. Current

Again, you want to seek those creeks with some incoming water. If you fish a river where the current is strong, bass will hold around current breaks, such as wing dams, points, mouths of creeks and canals.

Keep in mind that when reservoirs are generating current on the main lake, it also creates current in the creeks and the bass will position around points. If your lake is drawn down during the winter, dam operators set a specific schedule as to when they do that. Learn that schedule and it will help you find bass.

5. Wind

Wind creates current, moves the plankton around and the shad follow. Wind is a huge factor, especially in bigger creeks, and I always concentrate on the windy side where it’s hitting flats, points, cover or against the bank. It helps position the bass on key cover and structure, making it easier to pick them off. They are there to feed and will attack your lures more aggressively.

If you can find all of these in one area, you’ve found the mother lode and will likely load the boat with quality bass.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter

Originally published October 2012