It's all about the shad

Even though Keith Poche likes springtime bass fishing better than fall, autumn ranks a close second. And fall has one important advantage over spring for Poche.

“I’ve done well in fall tournaments,” Poche said. “They've gotten me where I am today.”

The 30-year-old, Troy, Ala., angler is coming off his most successful season as a pro. He finished 10th in the 2011 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points standings and easily qualified for the Bassmaster Classic. Although the Elite Series doesn’t feature any fall events, it was success in the autumn that propelled Poche to that circuit.

And according to Poche, fall bass fishing means following the shad.

“Fall is all about shad,” he said. “You really have to match what the bass are feeding on. Let the fish tell you what they want.”

To do that, Poche carries a wide variety of lures, and he likes to start the day with topwaters.

“Buzzbaits, Zara Spooks, Pop-Rs — those types of baits are good first thing in the morning,” Poche said. “You're concentrating on shad. Shad move shallow and the bass start moving up to feed on them. It’s a deal where they're feeding to get ready for a long winter.”

Poche’s second choice would be a crankbait — either a square-bill or something that runs just a little deeper (5 to 10 feet). Poche prefers Lucky Strike crankbaits and will adjust size and depth depending on what the fish seem to want that day.

“Mainly you’re concentrating on shallow cover,” Poche said. “You really want to follow the shad. They might be on structure one day. The next day they might be somewhere else down the bank.

“A lot of times I’ll be digging up mud. Then other times I’ll have to back off the bank and fish deeper — maybe five feet or a little more.”

Another important fall lure in Poche's arsenal is a spinnerbait. Poche prefers a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce model, again depending upon the size shad that bass are feeding on.

“You want to pick out a skirt color based on water color,” he said. “The clearer the water, the more translucent the skirt can be. In dingier water, you need to go to chartreuse or even a black-and-blue skirt to really catch their eye.

“I really want to burn the spinnerbait and bump some cover and get a reaction bite. If bass are schooling, I want to burn it and parallel the bank. I’ll fish it down rock banks or across points if the fish are really active.”

As for blade styles and colors, Poche advises the usual combinations — silver willowleaf blades for clear water and gold Colorado blades for off-colored water. He does some experimenting to zero-in on the right combination.

“I’ve never fine-tuned it that much,” Poche said. “You just really have to find out what the fish want that particular day. Sometimes I’ll mix blade colors and use one gold and one silver blade.”

Poche ranks Rat-L-Traps among the best shad-imitating lures, and he’s never without a few in different sizes in the fall so he can “match the hatch."

He fishes most of these baits on 15-pound monofilament line. He prefers the added stretch of mono. If he’s fishing a spinnerbait in heavy cover, he’ll upgrade to 20- or 25-pound test.

When it comes to fall bass fishing, Poche believes that if you study the shad, success will follow.

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