Lowen: No bait, no cast

2WI bill-lowen_MG_8352 JO 15th.jpg

James Overstreet
Day 2 - Bill Lowen

This is one of the best times of the year to go bass fishing. The weather is usually pretty good, there isn’t a lot of traffic on the water and the fish are predictable. What’s not to like about that?

In October and November I keep things simple. I confine my search for bass to mud flats with some wood on them. I’m a firm believer in shallow water locations. I’ll fish anything from about 4 feet deep up to where my trolling motor kicks up mud.

The 4 foot depth is critical in my opinion. That’s a magic depth in the fall, although I have no idea why. It doesn’t all have to be that deep but that depth needs to be in the immediate neighborhood if you expect to catch more than an isolated fish or two. A nearby ditch or drop is usually enough.

And, there must be baitfish — to me that means shad — on the flat I’m fishing. Fall bass are feeding bass. No bait, no cast.

It’s a funny situation in most lakes. You’ll go along from one flat to another seeing no baitfish activity and then, all of a sudden, you’ll go around a bend and the flat you see will be overrun with them. That’s the place you want to gently drop your trolling motor and pick up your crankbait rods.

I only use three baits at this time of the year. When the water’s warm I’ll throw a handmade balsa square-bill (PH Custom Lures) or an ima square-bill I helped design. As the water drops towards the 50 degree mark I’ll switch to a flat-side crankbait made by ima.

No matter which bait I throw it’ll have a shad finish on it. The water will be fairly clear so I want something that looks like what they’re eating.

I crank my square-bill through the water really fast, and I always bang it off the wood. As soon as it comes off the wood I’ll let it hesitate for just a moment before I crank it up again. I want to trigger a quick, no nonsense reaction bite.

When I’m throwing a flat-side I slow things down. They aren’t made to crank fast and, besides, you’ll hang them up in the wood if you try to burn them through it. Try to bring it back faster than a crawl but slower than a crank with an occasional hesitation. That’ll be about right.

While we’re talking about hang-ups I’d like to offer some friendly advice to some of you. Don’t go too light with your line. I typically spool 15 or 20-pound-test with my square-bills and never go lighter than 12-pound-test with my flat-sides. Heavy line will help keep the lures from hanging-up in the first place and, if they do get hung, you can pull them out.

In some circles it’s popular to hang treble hooks on shallow crankbaits with one point facing forward — then cut it off. That’ll keep you from getting hung. It’ll also make it harder to get a good hookset. I want as many hooks on my baits as possible. I don’t recommend cutting any hook off any lure.

Keep things simple this fall. You’ll have more fun and you’ll catch more bass.