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The Fall Crawl
An easy method for catching big bass.
By Wayne Ek

 

Crawling a jig or tube across the bottom during the annual fall frog migration is probably one of the easiest and most productive patterns for catching big fall bass.  There is a problem, however.  The window of opportunity to exploit this pattern is very small.  Here in central Minnesota we will usually see the frog migration start in late September.  By early November this pattern is pretty much over.


The author with a nice late fall largemouth, that 
fell for the fall crawl.

The Pattern:
This pattern has been around for ages; I think it just gets overlooked.  The pattern starts around the same time hunting season opens and after a hard summer of fishing a lot of anglers just donít have the time or energy to fish and hunt.  Also, around this time of year the weather can get rather cold and nasty, so fishing under those conditions just doesnít sound fun. But once the frog migration starts, the pattern holds no matter what the weather.  First, letís do away with an ď old wives taleĒ.  Aquatic frogs, like the leopard frog, mink frog and American bullfrog, do not burrow into the mud on the bottom of the lake during the winter.  Nor do they hibernate all winter.  They do aestivate during the winter, which means they are in a dormant state, very lethargic and sluggish.  These frogs will settle on the lake bottom.  They may lay behind brush, rocks or submergent vegetation or may even be partially covered by silt.  Because they absorb oxygen through their skin they cannot be completely covered by mud. Itís thought that during the winter they may even crawl or slowly swim around at times. These frogs need two things to survive the winter, they have to be in oxygen rich water, and need to be in deep enough water so they do not get ice bound. 

The Location:
Because this pattern is based on frogs, you would think that the best fishing locations would be in marshy, shallow water areas.  Iíve found that not to be true.  I have my best luck in water that is 5 to 10 feet deep and has a hard or semi-hard bottom, like sand, pea gravel or marl. Some of my best locations have nothing to do with marshy areas, but are rocky shorelines bordered by heavily forested areas.
Iíve also found a couple of areas that have homes lining the shoreline with manicured lawns, but behind the homes are large marshy areas and the shoreline is a sand/gravel mixture.

The Equipment:
Fall bass have the potential of being the largest bass you will catch all year. They have been feeding strong since late August to put on weight for the hard water period.  I like to use the same rod that I do some of my pitching and flipping with.  This is a Quantum PT (PTC666F).  Itís a 6í6Ē medium heavy with a fast taper.  I use the Quantum Energy PT reel (E750PT) with a lower gear ratio (5.1:1) for a little more power.

For line I use a quality fluorocarbon.  Normally on a pitching/flipping stick I would be using a braided line in the 50-pound class, but for this pattern you are fishing open water, light submergent vegetation or no vegetation.  Also, this pattern extends into the post lake turnover period, so the water can be extremely clear.  So a good quality fluorocarbon line in the 14 to 17 pound class works great. For lures Iíve had my best results with just two types.  My first choice is a Ĺ oz. Strike King Premier Pro-Model jig in blue/black with a 3X electric blue trailer or green pumpkin jig with a 3X watermelon trailer. And my second choice is a 4.5 or 5-inch green pumpkin tube, Texas-rigged with a Ĺ oz. tungsten weight. 

The Presentation:
The fall crawl is so easy and simple that most people I take out donít believe me at first.  All you have to do is cast out and let the bait settle to the bottom.  Now put your rod tip in the water and point your rod at the bait.  Ok, this is the hard part for most experienced anglers, donít move the rod.  No shaking, hopping, jigging, doodlingÖ nothing at all.  Just turn the reel handle a couple of times very slowly and stop.  Donít move the bait with the rod; just very slowly turn the reel handle.  Youíre just crawling the bait ever so slowly across the bottom.  You would think that with the water so cold and the bait moving so slowly across the bottom that the bite would be light or soft.  Nope, the bite is savage.  They just crush the bait and run, so hang onto the rod.

If you get a chance this fall try this pattern, even if you have to fish in weather better suited for duck hunting.  I think you will be surprised at the quantity and quality of bass you can catch this time of year.  This is truly a multi-species pattern, as I catch walleyes and northern pike right along with the bass.  Have a safe fall and we hope to see you on the water.

The author, Wayne Ek is a fishing guide, writer and tournament angler from Alexandria Minnesota . For more information you can reach Wayne at www.agapefishingguides.com