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"Fishing Fall Patterns"
By: Chad Morgenthaler

As the leaves start to turn and the water begins to cool, fishing is at its best in Southern Illinois . I really enjoy fishing in the fall simply because Mother Nature pushes the big fish toward shallow water for the fall feeding frenzy. As one can imagine, this gives anglers an opportunity to catch big numbers as well as quality fish.

Some really neat things start to happen during the fall. The fish begin to migrate out of their summer pattern and start relating more to bait fish. This in turn will make bass easier to locate and catch.  In order to identify the beginning of the fall pattern, anglers need to pay attention to shorter daylight hours and cooler nights. This will result in the lake water starting to cool an average of 5-10 degrees.  

During the first part of the stage bass migrate off of the main lake and into the mouths and secondary points of creek channel necks. Look for areas that have the most bait fish activity, such as secondary points.  Most likely an angler will also find some largemouth schools.  As an angler begins to locate the fall fishing pattern, stay tuned-in to where the bait fish are located. This is a key strategy to successful fall fishing. Bait fish will start flicking the surface of the main lake points as well as in the back of coves. Just remember water temperature in the coves can fluctuate greatly within a 24-hour period, so the fish migration to these areas will not happen overnight.

One of Morgenthaler's choices in
shallow water is a Bagley's Balsa B

In the fall I try to keep bait selection really simple. I use baits that closely mimic the size of the bait fish I’m following around. If the bait fish are a couple of inches long, and they usually are, this is a great time for a small crankbait. In clear water situations I use a Bandit 100 or 200 series crankbait. In shallow water situations I use a Lucky Craft 1.5.or a 2.5.  I’ll also try a Bagley’s Balsa “B” in chartreuse or shad patterns/colors.

The above baits displace a lot of water with their wide wobble. The displaced water helps the bass locate the bait easier. They also have a really unique action, which allows anglers to throw the bait right into and around heavy cover such as lay-downs and stump areas. Remember during the fall large fish stage in heavy cover in order to ambush their prey.

If the water is clear and bass are found in 2 to 5 foot of water, my suggestion is to start with a shad pattern color on a spinner bait.  My favorite is the War Eagle in mouse color with tandem four and five willow leaf blades. If the water is a little cloudy, go with one chrome blade and one gold blade. I stick with the willow blades because of the profile and the ability to use them at different speeds and depths.

The second pattern found during fall season is schooling. The bass group together and herd shad to the surface and literally work into a feeding frenzy. If an angler witnesses a school of fish blowing-up on shad, try to get to the area as quickly and quietly as possible. In my experience this requires making a long cast, so I recommend using rigs with 12-15lb. Maxima line. Cast just beyond or into the area where the fish are schooling and more often than not this will result in a quick bite.  As for as baits, I always like to have a lipless crank bait ready such as a chrome and blue rattle trap. I also like to have a couple of top water baits handy while targeting schooling fish, something in the white/shad color range.

After catching a few schooling fish make sure and hang around the area for 5–10 minutes.  Soon the entire school will start to move closer to the boat. I know I’m making this type of fishing sound easy, but it can actually be very, very difficult. Unfortunately to take advantage of schooling fish an angler has to be in the right place at the right time!

As the water continues to cool down I work my way into the back of creek channel necks and pockets in order to target shallow structure.  It’s also important to remember not to count out large main lake coves. Just because a cove doesn’t have a feeder creek doesn’t mean that it won’t be productive. With the right type of cover, or vegetation, main lake coves have the potential to be just as good as feeder creeks.  

One of Chad's favorite Fall Topwater
baits is a Lucky Craft Sammy.

I typically use the same type of baits for early or late fall fishing.  But during the late fall I count on top water baits for the majority of my catches.  My favorite fall top water baits include a Pop-R and a Lucky Craft Sammy. 

When an angler narrows down his/her bait selection it’s time to focus on fish movement. Remember, this is not springtime fishing; fish will not stay in one place for very long. The fish are completely relating to their food. Just because fish are caught in a small cove area on Wednesday does not mean that they’ll still be there on Thursday. It is vital that anglers keep an open mind during this time of year and understand fish can change on a day-by-day basis. The ‘pattern’ anglers need to focus on is the ability to identify and target the same depths, around similar structure, in several different parts of the lake.  

Fall time in Southern Illinois can be a very productive time of year to catch bass.  Just keep in mind that fish are feeding heavy and following bait fish and won’t stay in one place long. Try some of the tips and techniques mentioned and get out there and enjoy the fall pattern.

A special “Thanks” to all of my sponsors: Jasper Engines and Transmissions, Yamaha Motors, Ranger Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Svanda GM Motor Group, Maxima Line, Kistler Rods, Minn Kota, Plano , Mr. Blitz and Nameoki Village Marine.

Make sure and logon to my website and signup for my fan club.  E-newsletters are forwarded monthly and one lucky winner each month receives a prize. Tournament summaries are posted after each tournament and pro tips are updated every two weeks.