A common strategy for catching bass during the fall is to go little — as in smaller lure presentations.
That can work. Bass will school and push young shad around in the backs of creeks that time of year. Anglers can do well throwing small crankbaits or vibrating jigs that best imitate the forage.
But there is an entirely different pattern that can come into play and get overlooked. Big baits.
Years ago during a Bassmaster Invitational at Lake of the Ozarks in late October, the top finishers did well throwing big baits shallow and oftentimes tight to the shoreline.
They caught them on big buzzbaits, squarebill crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Other competitors caught fish using smaller stuff, but the bigger baits produced the heavier weights.
Those bass weren’t the smaller schooling fish like you’d see in the backs of creeks, but they were much bigger fish feeding on large gizzard shad around the bank.
Gizzard shad will get up shallow that time of year. And although they will range in size from 12 to 15 inches, the big bass will eat them.
If the water is clear, you can probably see those big shad up there shallow, but you don’t have to see them to make it a pattern worth checking.
I capitalized on it and finished seventh by throwing a big buzzbait. I wasn’t getting a lot of bites, but the ones I was getting were 4- and 5-pounders, which were pretty big bass for that lake back then.
It’s a pattern I’ve seen on Texas lakes as well, so I know it works when the water cools on lakes around the country that have gizzard shad.
If you think about it logically, those bigger bass that can eat those larger shad don’t have to eat as often, whereas if they are chasing around little ones they have to eat all the time.
Because the shad are big, you need big baits that make a disturbance. I like the Strike King 2.5 Squarebill, a 4.0 big-bladed spinnerbait and a big buzzbait. A topwater or even a plopper-style lure also emulate those big shad banging around up there shallow and can get you some explosive bites.
Just match the hatch and stick to shad colors. I like baits with a lot of white or silver and maybe a hint of chartreuse.
Like I said, you won’t get a lot of bites, but it’s a great way to upgrade your catch.