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Fishing for fall schoolers

Never knowing what fall schoolers may want, Louisiana pro Greg Hackney keeps multiple baits at the ready. Photo by David A. Brown

As topwater bites go, this one was just okay. Greg Hackney caught the 5-pounder, but minus the eye-widening, toe-clenching thrill that makes us throw surface baits.

Don’t worry if you just tested the toe-clenching thing — you’re not alone. What’s more important is why this matters, particularly for the fall schooling pattern.

See, shortly after that ho-hum walking bait bite, Hackney caught his second and third fish on a popper. Both times, the fish blasted the bait.

“It was the way they were getting it,” Hackney said of this and other fish that boiled and nipped at his walker with noticeable lethargy. “It was like they were hitting at it, but they didn’t really like it. So, I switched to a popper, and second cast, one eats it; third cast, I catch another one.

“From experience, I could tell by the way they were eating the bait [that] I was throwing the wrong one. Always let them tell you what they want; don’t ever force-feed them.”

This principle rings true each fall when bass gorge themselves in preparation for the upcoming lean winter season. As Hackney points out, you have to choose a starting point and sometimes, that’s an educated guess. But this is no time for stubbornness — the root of self-defeat. Consider these insights for your schooling work.