Last time I said that if there’s no baitfish in the shallows I don’t make a cast. That thinking is still good except that things are starting to change. The days are getting progressively shorter and the water temperature is dropping even though it’s unusually warm here in the Midwest.
I fish shallow just like a month ago, but even more so now.
Dropping water levels do not move the fish off the bank now like they do at other times of the year. It’s the opposite. They move them in even shallower. In fact, it can’t get too shallow. I’ve caught them in water that hardly covers their backs. At times the biggest problem you’ll have is getting the boat in close enough so that you can reach them with a long cast.
Shad imitating baits are still the thing, but I do change from my trusty square bill to spinnerbaits and flat sided crankbaits.
I’m very specific with my spinnerbaits for late fall bass. I throw a 1/4 ounce, white or white and chartreuse model with a No. 4 or 4 1/2 Colorado hammered blade. If the water’s stained I go with gold. If it’s not, I go with silver.
The idea is to be able to slow roll it just under the surface. I want it to run really shallow and slow enough so that they have plenty of time to grab it if they want. The light head and big Colorado blade allow me to do that.
I’m not exactly sure why a slow presentation works better than a fast one. The water’s not cold enough to slow the fish down so that’s not it. Maybe it’s because the shad are shallow and not moving around very much. Slow is definitely better, though.
When I’m not fishing the spinnerbait I go with a shad finished, flat sided crankbait. There are several good ones on the market. My favorites are the ima Shaker and the handmade balsa ones made by Phil Hunt (PH Custom Lures). They match the hatch pretty close in most places and they both have realistic actions.
That’s very important at this time of the year. You want to be careful about that. The water’s usually clear and the fish are almost always feeding on one size and color of forage.
Fishing a flat sided crankbait is not as easy as it is with a square bill, however. You need to take your time and worm them through the cover carefully, especially any wood you can find. Take your time. Don’t hang them. These baits are super good but they’re not cheap. Losing them can be expensive.
Don’t avoid the water this fall just because it’s a little cool. It’s a great time to load the boat with quality fish. If I wasn’t a serious deer hunter, I’d be out there right now.
By the time you read the next column the water should be really cold. That’s when you can catch them on a swim jig over shallow grass.