So far, we’ve had a pretty mild fall, so we still have some time before the fish settle into their winter patterns. You have a lot of options on how to catch fish this time of year, but whenever I’m fishing the fall pattern, I keep it simple with my three go-to baits.
My top pick in the fall is a buzzbait because it’s something I can cover water with. The water hasn’t gotten cold yet, so the fish are still active. I feel like I can throw that buzzbait and expect to catch a good fish within the first couple of hours.
I’ll vary my presentation based on conditions, and while the water temperature’s still pretty warm, I’ll go with the latest craze — the buzz toad. The fish are really keyed on bream, so using a soft plastic toad for your buzzbait trailer gives you a bigger profile and increases your casting distance.
As the water cools, the fish start to key on bait more, so I’ll add a white or white/chartreuse skirt to my buzzbait. I’ll make this change right around the 60-degree mark.
As far as retrieves, the buzzbait’s pretty simple, but I like to mix it up by jumping my rod to give that blade a pop. You’re not letting the bait go under the surface, but you’re giving it just enough additional action to vary the sound.
One key tip for buzzbaits: Whatever cover you come to, you always want to throw past it; you never want to land on top of it. If it’s a big piece of cover, yeah, I’ll throw at it twice, but nine times out of 10, a fish that’s on a piece of shallow cover will eat that buzzbait the first time.
The fish usually bite the bait pretty good, so you don’t usually need a trailer hook. The only time I’ll use a trailer hook is in really clear water.
Number two is going to be a 3/8-ounce Shooter Lures jig. I like a jig all the time, but it’s especially versatile in the fall because I can cover water and target specific spots with it. When I’m going to the bank, I can swim a jig, I can flip it or I can skip a dock with it.
A lot of times, when I’m skipping a dock, the fish will like to hang up high. So, rather than letting it go all the way to the bottom, I’m swimming it through that mid-depth range.
The key, here, is to let the fish tell you what they want. For example, if you do let the jig go to the bottom and you have one follow it to the boat when you wind it in, that tells you the fish are suspended.
When I’m just flipping a jig and letting it go to the bottom, 90 percent of the time, I’m using a Zoom Chunk or Super Chunk. But if I’m swimming a jig in the fall, I like the Zoom Fat Albert Twin Tail Grub. That helps me skip the bait better, it lets me hold my jig higher in the water column, makes it fall a little slower and it adds a little extra action. The bass are still mostly keyed on bream and a green pumpkin Twin Tail Grub on green pumpkin jig with a touch of orange is my go-to bream setup.
Lastly, my clean-up bait is a 1/8-ounce shaky head with a black or green pumpkin Zoom trick worm. I’ve about gotten to the point now that I don’t leave the house without one because it’s a great follow-up bait.
You can use it behind a buzzbait, or if you’re fishing a dock with a lot of cover and you catch one on the jig, but can’t get another bite, you can throw that shaky head in there and a lot of times, it will get you a few more fish.
If I can offer one tip on finding fish in the fall, it’s this: I like the flatter sides of a creek or pocket, not the channel side. It needs to have deep water nearby, but those fish like to chase bait up on those flatter banks, so that’s where you’re going to find me.