Fall is a time of transition. The dynamic under the water is changing as fast as the leaves above. Baitfish are moving to the backs of creeks, and the bass are following them. These small fish are at the top of the bass' menu, so you'd be wise to throw a bait to match.
Elite Series pro Marty Stone believes small crankbaits are the best way to get a gaggle of bass as they chase forage around the lake. He says crankbaits are a good bet in the fall because the bass have been barraged by jigs and spinnerbaits up until now. When a crankbait comes banging and bumping along out of nowhere, the bass can't help but strike.
To draw a reaction strike, your bait needs to be erratic or appear suddenly to the fish. He opts for a crankbait to fill this need.
"There are a few things I look for on a reservoir if I'm there in the fall," Stone says. "First and foremost is riprap. It's everywhere. I've won some local tournaments cranking riprap this time of year.
"Secondly, if the lake is drawn down, I look for rock veins. A vein could consist of chunk rock, pea gravel or anything else. You normally wouldn't be able to see them coming off the bank, but when they're exposed they're worth hitting.
"The last thing I look for is sight stuff. There could be a laydown exposed or the tail end of a dock that's out of water."
Stone keeps his bait choice simple and bases it on the presence of wind. If it's blowing, he uses Lucky Craft's RC 2.5, and if it's calm he goes with the 1.5. He reasons that the smaller, lighter 1.5 gives a more subtle entry into the water, which goes a long way in the skinny water you'll be cranking.
"You're looking to fish anywhere from 2 to 4 1/2 feet deep in the fall, depending on the line test you're using," he says. "When casting, you want to quarter-cast to the bank so you cover several different depth zones."
Stone uses a crankbait-friendly 5.1:1 Ardent reel spooled with 12- to 15-pound test Vicious fluorocarbon if he's throwing the 1.5, and 15- to 20-pound test Vicious monofilament when he's tossing the 2.5. His rod of choice is an American Rodsmiths Team Series No. 1, which he designed himself to have the perfect tip for throwing the smaller crankbaits and also the flex to drive treble hooks home.
Stone emphasizes that fall cranking is about reaction bites, and the best way to get them is to set your bait up to startle a fish. While cranking, your bait needs to be in contact with the rock to be most effective. He calls it "chewing" the rock.
"If your bait's chewing the rock, you're doing good. If not, you're not close enough to the bank," he says. "Pull up there and let it root around and get that reflex strike."