A fall guide to topwaters

Fall time is topwater time. Topwater is one of my favorite techniques. From September through December, I always have one tied on. There are so many topwater baits that it can be overwhelming trying to decide which one to use. I keep it pretty simple and let the water clarity and fishery type dictate which bait I will use. Below are four different types of lakes and the baits that I would use on them in fall.

1. Stained water with matted and submerged grass (Guntersville Lake, Lay Lake, Lake Chickamauga)

When I start fishing a grass lake in the fall, I look for mats first. Grass mats on the main lake and in creeks hold really big fish in the fall. There is no better way to catch them than with a hollow body frog. I concentrate on isolated mats or large mats adjacent to deeper water. Fishing slow and methodically is a necessity to catching big bass out of mats. They have to hear the frog under the thick mat, and that takes time. It’s almost like you have to aggravate them into biting. I use a Pinnacle Perfecta 7’9” heavy action with 65-pound Spiderwire because it takes a lot of power to get the bass out of the mats.

If the mat bite is not on, I back out from the mats and target the submerged grass. When I am fishing submerged grass, I want to key in on areas where the grass is in clumps. If I start seeing a continuous thick carpet of submerged grass, I leave and look for areas where it is sparser. In these areas, a Sizmic Toad or a Skinny Dipper buzzed on the surface works great because I can cover a lot of water to find the bass.

2. Stained water with docks and laydowns (Ft. Loudon Lake, Lake Wheeler, Grand Lake)

When I fish a lake that has stained water with a mixture of docks and laydowns in the fall, I cover a lot of water at first. I like to start fishing in the backs of creeks and work my way out to the main lake until I find where the bass are. When I am in search mode, I love to use a buzzbait. A buzzbait allows me to fish fast and to fish around some thick cover without the fear of getting hung up.

After catching a few on a buzzbait, I slow down once I find a concentration of fish. I try to make really accurate casts around the tight cover with a Pop-R and a prop bait. These baits make a lot of commotion and help bass find the bait in the stained water. Making precise casts is very important, since many bass are really shallow.

3. Deep, clear water with rocky banks (Norris Lake, Dale Hollow Lake, Table Rock Lake)

On these deep, clear, rocky lakes in the fall, I know that I have just as good of a chance catching smallmouth as largemouth, so I throw baits that appeal to both. My go-to lure for catching both species in clear water is a spook type bait like the Floatback Lures Walker. I target areas like primary and secondary points, gravel rounds, and bluff banks. I tend to jump around a lot and fish many different areas, as bites will come in the first few casts at each spot.  The best times to catch them on top in clear water is the morning or during the day when shade or a light breeze is present. I make extremely long casts with a 7’ medium-heavy action Perfecta rod and 14-pound Trilene XT mono because the bass can be spooky.  

4. Clear water with docks and shoals (Lake Norman, Lake Lanier, Smith Lake)

Clear water, spotted bass lakes can be exceptionally good in the fall. I can normally find a good topwater bite on docks and shallow shoals. I fish the shoals in the morning. I use a wakebait like an old school Bomber Long-A when I am fishing for spotted bass on shoals. A slow, steady retrieve on a long cast is the key to the wakebait. Many times, the spotted bass will track the bait for a while before getting aggravated into striking. Once the sun comes out, I will shift focus to shade lines on docks. The shady sides of docks will prolong the topwater bite for a few hours until the sun gets directly overhead. For the docks, I will use a wakebait or a small walking bait. When I’m fishing docks in clear water, I hit as many as I can by only making a few casts on each one. There is no need to fish the entire dock because I just fish the shade.

Topwater is one of the most exciting ways to fish, and I hope that you will enjoy some vicious strikes this fall. Just remember to let the water clarity and fishery type determine what to throw and where to fish. I am guiding a lot this fall, so if you if you want to catch some nice topwater fish with me, send me a message on my website.

Dare to fail.

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