The Fall Feeding Frenzy
By Marc Rogers
The transition from summer to fall is one of my favorite times to bass fish. Many of the bass are getting ready for the fall feeding frenzy while there are still a few left holding onto the summer patterns. Fishing holes for bass holding to cover and structure are generally over. The thermocline is a thing of the past in the Midwest Region as the lakes begin to turnover.
Bass know that colder times are on the way when the evening temperature cools the water surface. This causes the denser, cooler water to fall into the depths pushing the warmer water to the surface. The baitfish begin to school so thick on the surface of the coves of lakes it appears an angler could walk across them without getting their feet wet. Bass are quick to recognize the baitfish and feed heavily on them. There are many ways to catch bass during this season but the most exciting is with a top-water lure.
On large lakes the fall transition does not occur at the same time throughout the entire body of water. The upper ends and major tributaries generally start the change to the fall patterns before the lower lake. This is when fishing location can be the difference in an angler having a productive day or a fishless day. Listening to other angles success or failures can cause more problems than help if the success stories do not include the location.
Midwest Fishing Tackle Pro-Staff Member Alton says “when I am not having much success catching bass in the early fall I change colors or depth. However, slight changes in both are often all that is necessary. Slight changes are much more pronounced in the fall than any other times of the year.” He refers to changing from a brown/orange to a brown/green crawdad colored crankbait or presenting a lure at four feet instead of seven feet deep. Alton says a minimal change can make a big difference.
Watching the baitfish movement is often the key to locating bass during the early fall. The bass are preparing for winter and will follow the forage. Finding the schools of baitfish is generally easy because they cruise just under the surface and cause a slight disturbance in the water. While watching for the surface action of the baitfish bass will make it quite clear when they are near and feeding. The water will explode just after the baitfishes begin breaking the surface as the feeding frenzy begins. There are several ways to catch these feeding bass and shad imitating lures are the best choice.
Pro-Staff Member, Aaron Hunter, relies on the Zoom Super Fluke for most of his shad imitating presentations. He says, “The fluke is my favorite because it is so versatile. I can work it on or just below the surface as well as all the way to the bottom.” He reported he has tried swim baits but still relies on the fluke when others use swim baits. Aaron agreed top-water lures are the most exciting to use because of the violent strikes but many times the sub-surface presentations produce the bigger bass. He likes to cast a lip-less crankbait into the school of surface feeding bass and let it fall. He said “I have found many times the bigger bass are below the schools waiting for the falling wounded baitfish. I let the lure fall about five feet below the surface and start cranking with a lift and fall presentation.”
When trying to put a limit in the live well to cull from I prefer a top-water presentation. My first choice is the Rebel Pop-R followed by the Storm Chug Bug. The Pop-R is a great popper and the Chug Bug gives the popping sound with the ability to slide the lure back and forth similar to a Zara Spook. Once a limit is caught I start with a wide wobble crankbait like the Storm Wiggle Wart. I can cover a lot of water with a crankbait and it is quite effective for fall bass when they are chasing baitfish. Large bass can be taken on top-water lures but generally the schooling fish are just solid legal bass and the bigger ones do not reside in these schools.
The bass are quite aggressive during the fall and will not hesitate to chase fast moving lures. However, if the aggressive bite is not working it pays to slow down and present jigs on secondary points where they may still be waiting to make the fall migration in search of baitfish. Aaron said “I always have a jig tied on a rod every time I am on the water. The jig is still my go to lure for a big bass anytime of the year. I start out swimming it just off the bottom and only drag it on the bottom if the slower presentation is necessary.”
Fall is a great time to experiment and allow the bass to tell you what is the best presentation is. Top-water lures are the most exciting but will not always produce the biggest bass. Also, not all of the bass are making the fall transition at the same time. The main lake is usually the last area where this change takes place but keep you eyes open in search of the schools of baitfish for some hot top-water action.