How-To

Target fall flats

If you’re having trouble finding bass this fall, I encourage you to focus on flats. In October and November I do far better by getting away from those beautiful steep points, docks, rock banks and bridge pilings and fishing nothing but flats.

A flat is any place where the topographic contour lines spread far apart, which indicates a gentle, sloping bottom. I target three forms of flats. One is a flat stretch along a bank. Another is a flat point. The third is the back of a cove that flattens out. On a map they appear to be featureless areas without drops or abrupt high spots.

While growing up in California, and now in my home state of Texas, every single season I’ve fished in the fall my greatest success has come by fishing flats.

I just finished in fifth place Oct. 12 by fishing flats at the Won Bass U.S. Open on Lake Mohave, which borders Nevada and Arizona. The water was super clear, the conditions were calm and the bass had moved up from their deep summertime spots to feed. I did check out those seductive sharp-dropping main lake and secondary points, but I got few bites in those places. I really didn’t expect I would.

I switched gears and used my LakeMaster digital map to identify flat points, coves and flat stretches of bank. Bass love to ambush balls of baitfish in those places at this time of year. That’s where I found the shad and the 4- and 5-pound smallmouth that were harassing them.

The challenge with fishing flats is that they are vast and don’t have structure breaks on the bottom that help you pinpoint the bass. The shad constantly roam over a flat, and the bass go wherever the baitfish go. You’re trying to hit a target moving over a large area. You can’t fish flats effectively by slowly dragging baits over the bottom. You have to cover water quickly to be efficient. Flats and reaction baits go hand in hand in the fall.

One of my most productive baits for fishing flats at this time of year is a white 1/2-ounce Googan spinnerbait with tandem nickel willow leaf blades. A spinnerbait is one of the oldest bass lures in the books, but it works well because it perfectly imitates the shad that wonder over the flats.

Crankbaits, jerkbaits and small swimbaits that match the baitfish also cover water quickly with a horizontal presentation. Any bass that shows up on a flat is simply there to feed and get ready for the winter months. You don’t have to fool these fish with finesse lures.

Of course, your lure choices should match the depth and the water color you are fishing. Although I was catching bass 35 to 40 feet deep at Mohave, I have also loaded the boat by fishing flats only 3 to 5 feet deep. I used a drop shot to catch those jumbo smallmouth at Mohave. Because the bass were so deep, it was the fastest way to present a bait to them.

I didn’t waste time dragging my drop shot on the bottom. I held off casting until I saw a bass near the bottom with Humminbird Mega Live Imaging. A 1/2-ounce drop-shot weight got my shad profile bait down to the fish in a couple of seconds. It also sank fast enough to cause a reaction bite when it passed in front of the bass. I didn’t waste time dragging and shaking the bait on the bottom.

On your next fall outing, I strongly suggest that you look for flats where the contour lines are spread far apart. You’ll find them on long, sloping points, flat banks and even in the backs of coves. When you come across a flat that swarms with baitfish, get ready for action. The bass will be there.