Fishing the fall drawdown

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James Overstreet

Summer is darn near over, for the most part anyway. That means most of the reservoirs around the country have falling water levels as the managers draw them down towards winter pool in anticipation of the winter snows or spring rains.

It’s almost an article of faith among bass anglers that falling water pulls bass out, away from the bank. That might happen sometimes and in some places but it doesn’t always happen in the fall, and most definitely not in my neighborhood here in North Carolina. 

I’m going to tell you about what happens here. That might not be exactly what happens where you fish, but it will give you a different approach and something to think about as the leaves start to turn.

The majority of the quality bass that will be caught from now until spring around here will come out of water that’s 3 feet deep or less and a lot of them will come from docks. That holds true no matter how deep the water is in the main lake or how much of it is available to the bass. 

A lot of the docks here are dredged. Regardless of how far they lower the lake there’ll always be plenty of water under them. But the docks that aren’t dredged will be shallow, and those are the ones we target.

You see, sometimes it isn’t about where the most fish are holding. It’s about the ones you can catch. Deep docks are fished to death. Anglers fish them over and over every day of the week. But many of those same anglers don’t target the shallow ones because…well…they’re shallow. Big mistake.

There are fish under and around the shallow ones that are never targeted and probably haven’t seen a lure in weeks. It’s fall. The water temperature is dropping. The bass are feeding. That means they’re just waiting to be caught.

Better yet, you can catch multiple fish from those docks on the same day even though most of them will be small. Just go back every couple of hours. I’m not sure if the new catches have moved in or if the bass have just calmed down after you caught the previous one, and I don’t care. What I do care about is catching them. 

Because these bass are so shallow and it’s towards the end of the year I usually start fishing shallow docks with a topwater bait. My primary choices are the Berkley J-Walker when I want something with a little size and that’ll walk all day without wearing me out. If I want more splash and noise, I’ll switch to a Berkley Choppo. It’s tail will churn a ton of water, and it’s the right size for most bass. 

There are times, though, when I want something quiet and something that gets down under the surface. That’s when I reach for my new jig, the Picasso Dock Rocket. It’s designed for exactly the kind of fishing I’ve been talking about in this column.

Every now and again I’ll try a buzzbait or even a square bill crankbait. The idea is to give the bass something they haven’t seen and that looks like it’d be good to eat. 

I know that some of you are probably thinking that no one dredges a dock on your lake. That doesn’t matter one bit. There are still some deep docks that everybody targets and some shallow ones that nobody targets. Become the exception to the rule. Target shallow bass when the fall drawdown starts this year. 

Don’t blend.