Time to sling bass

My name is Hunter, but I don’t hunt because I know I would get addicted to it. Now that I’m living my dream of being a Bassmaster Elite Series angler, my priority has to be all about fishing even when the tournament season is over.

In November, loads of bass fishermen in my home state of Ohio and elsewhere put down their rods and pick up their hunting bows. They abandon the lakes in favor of hanging out in tree stands with the dream of flinging an arrow into the boiler room of a big whitetail buck.

That works to my advantage because I rarely see other anglers on the water at this time. Prime autumn fishing for me is when the water temperature is in the lower 50s to the upper 40s. I’ve caught bass under miserable conditions in November, even when it was snowing and blowing frigid rain. But I have much better success if I pick a day when the weather works to my advantage.

I pay close attention to weather patterns throughout the week, as I do all year. The ideal situation in autumn is when a warm front blows in from the south ahead of a big storm. That gets the shad moving. The shad activity encourages the bass to feed with more gusto. The water may be cold, but the bass are still feeding up for the long winter. 

Three rods and three baits

I only have three rods on my deck when the water drops to 52 degrees. One is rigged with a jerkbait, another with a crankbait and a third with a jig. The water clarity and the conditions tip me off to which rod I need to be casting.

As for where to cast, that has everything to do with the shad. If you’re not fishing where shad are congregated, you’re not fishing where the bass are. On a warming trend, I often find the shad in main lake pockets or in creeks where there’s a rocky 45-degree bank.

If the water is clear and the wind is blowing on the bank, I’m going to snatch up a baitcasting rod with 8-pound Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon that’s knotted to a Berkley Cutter 110+ Shallow jerkbait. My favorite color in this situation is Blue Vapor. It looks just like a shad.

The Skinny Cutter suspends perfectly nose down, which is a profile that works for me in autumn. The bait comes with good hooks, so you don’t need to change them. That would likely unbalance the bait and cause it to rise or sink when paused.

Again, the wind needs to be blowing on the bank for a jerkbait. My twitch and pause cadence is much slower now that the water is in the low 50s to upper 40s. I give the jerkbait long pauses, from three to five seconds. The 8-pound line lets the jerkbait dive faster and get a little deeper. It also gives the bait a better action. But I’m still fishing no more than 5 feet deep.

If there’s wind on the rocks but the water is dingy, I go with the rod that’s matched with a Berkley Frittside crankbait. This durable plastic flat-sided bait has a very tight wiggle and fishes like those fragile, pricey handmade balsa baits. The balsa models cast poorly because they plane in the wind. The Frittside is balanced so you can cast it as far as you need too.

The Frittside comes in sizes 5, 7 and 9. The sizes generally refer to their diving depths. Sizes 5 and 7 cover the depths I prefer to fish at this time. I retrieve these crankbaits slowly with a 6.4:1 gear ratio Abu Garcia baitcaster. I usually pause the retrieve for a second or so when I feel the crankbait bump over a rock. These silent crankbaits don’t put out much vibration, which is the way to go in cold water.

When it’s sunny, slick and calm, I switch to the rod that’s rigged with a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce football jig. I pitch it to rocky banks and crawl it over the bottom in 1 to 5 feet of water. I tip the jig with a Berkley Powerbait Maxscent Meaty Chunk. It’s an old school style trailer. It doesn’t have a lot of action, but it has a great profile and has Maxscent to boot.

If you haven’t tried fishing in autumn, these tips should help you get in touch with bass. When everybody else is flinging arrows, you’ll be slinging bass into the boat.

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