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Strategies for Catching Bass in the Fall  
By: Chad Morgenthaler


The fall can be a great time of year to catch bass, but unfortunately it can also be a very frustrating time of year to fish.  During the fall season several patterns can emerge at any given time, which can make the fish hard to locate.  Whether anglers are dealing with shallow or deep ďresidentĒ fish, or schooling fish that tend to roam and suspend in open water, starting the day with a plan of attack is essential.

Iím a shallow water angler, so my first plan of attack is to determine what the lake has to offer in the form of vegetation and cover. This time of year I throw conventional wisdom out the window and just look for bites.  When the bites come, whether itís in vegetation or shallow around docks, I pay attention because there are clues to why the fish are there.  Itís really important to identify the clues, and key in on what each piece of the puzzle means.   The fish could be holding in a particular location because of current, bait fish, shade, or cover.

Once Iíve expanded what I like to call a ďmilk runĒ by keying in on certain clues, next I determine how to approach each location.  Itís important to remember when fishing shallow itís easy to ďfish outĒ an area.  Anglers can quickly remove the resident fish to the point where they wonít replenish fast enough.  It can take sometime before other bass move into an area if it was fished thoroughly, so keep that in mind.

I donít usually get tied-up in bait selection when Iím targeting shallow water fish.  I really prefer to use just a few types.  If Iím around vegetation I like to start the morning off with a top water bait such as a Reaction Innovations Shark, or Swamp Donkey.  If itís still early when I move into open water I like to tie on a Reaction Innovations Vixen using a ďwalk the dogĒ presentation.

 As the day progresses Iíll move in the direction of jigs and soft plastics for targeting shallow water fish .  Iíll pitch and flip to cover using a Lunker Lure Grass Monster or a Triple Rattleback jig.  If the bite gets tough Iíll drop down in line size and use 6 to 8 pound Maxima Fluorocarbon line. With lighter line, Iíll tie on a 1/8oz Shakey Head and a Flirt finesse worm. 

Another pattern is to locate the deeper fish.  At this time of year bass like to hang out in brush piles located around boat docks. In addition, look for weeds or vegetation in 8 to 10 foot of water, or even deeper.  These are always some good alternatives. 

I like to use soft plastics when Iím trying to locate fish in deeper structure.  Iíll start off by using a fast moving bait such as a crank bait to see if I can generate a bite.  If  a crank bait doesnít create a strike then Iíll revisit the same structure with a soft plastic bait, such as a 10 inch worm or a jig.  Donít count it out, Texas Rig the worm and probe the structure very carefully.  This is a good back up pattern for a shallow water angler, and it enables anglers to catch multiple fish off of one particular piece of structure.  For instance, a brush pile located at the edge of a dock might hold three or four nice fish.  It might be a small school rather than just singles, which is typically found with shallow water patters.

Spend some time with your electronics.   I prefer Lowranceís units because of their high pixel count, which allows for a great picture.  When fishing deep itís important to have a really good image of whatís on the bottom in order to locate brush piles and other structure.  When I locate a deep brush pile, I use the quick save feature on my LCX 113CHD.   By pressing the ďway pointĒ button twice Iíve saved my position and can easily return at any time. 

In the fall schooling fish can be extremely difficult to tackle.  They seem to pointlessly roam in open water only relating to bait fish and donít seem to have a pattern of any kind. Itís typical for schooling fish to bust off of a point three or four times, but when an angler eases over to get close enough for a cast, they move away.  For this reason I do not like to target schooling fish, period. They are my last resort for fall fishing because itís very hard to base a pattern on schooling fish, but if the opportunity arises to catch a few, Iím ready.  When fall fishing I always have a bait tied on just in case I see schooling fish close by.  If youíre lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, hang on because it can be a lot of fun.

With schooling fish I really like to use a bait that resembles a minnow such as a Zoom Fluke in white, or any bait fish color.  Iíll tie on a 1/2 or 3/8 ounce Blade and Shad by Lunker Lure.  The bait head resembles a minnow head with a little spinner attached.  I make long casts into the schooling fish using a Kistler Helium LTA 7í Medium Heavy action rod with 10 pound Maxima fluorocarbon line. 

Timing is everything with schooling fish.  When the fish start to bust, react and react quickly.  The ability to make a long cast without spooking the fish is critical.  Have a top water bait handy such as a heavy Spook or a Reaction Innovations Vixen.  These baits have a lot of weight and the ability to cast a long distance.   

When fishing in the fall just remember to keep an open mind because things can change very rapidly.  Pay particular attention to the clues and piece together a pattern thatís working for that particular day.  Once a pattern is established then try to duplicate it in similar areas around the lake.  Regardless of the outcome, have a great day on the lake.  

Make sure and log onto my web site 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 often.  Itís a great source of bass fishing information.