[CASE STUDY] How I Created A 5-Step Plan To Locate and Catch Fall Bass

Is bass fishing good in the fall? Answer: YES! We’re going to give you all the fall bass tactics, lure colors, techniques and patterns you’ll need!  Especially when you encounter the dreaded…

Baitfish Bonanza….More than any other time of year especially in September and October Bass are most dependent on the location of baitfish.

During these months you’ll see huge schools of baitfish packed tightly slowly moving towards shallow areas off the main lake. This is because the water gradually cools during this time of year and the small plankton thrive better in warmer water.

The baitfish will follow the plankton to the warmer water. Meaning you’ll see more action in the coves versus the main Lake.

Step 1) How Do I Find Shad/ Baitfish During The Fall?

best fall bass lures

In early fall when the bass have not migrated to the backs of the coves, head to the upper end of the lake, you’ll find that it holds most of the bait.

That look for the following structure near the mouths of the cove:

Creek channels that are around 15 to 30 ft deep, deep ledges, rock piles or humps and submerged timber.

Later in the fall, venture farther into the cove looking for the schools of baitfish.

It’s vital that you know how to use your electronics to locate these large schools of shad, herring, or alewife, this will tell you what depth you need to target.

fall bass fishing techniques
image via: thehulltruth.com

Step 2) How Do I Determine The Water Clarity?

If you’re new to bass fishing, you’ll hear the saying, “‘Water clarity is the single most important factor in finding largemouth bass.”

I would consider “gin clear water” is where you can see the bottom, 15 feet or deeper.

In clear bodies of water, you’ll see bass suspending in the water column approximately the same depth as the school of baitfish.

Stained water can be from one to three to five feet. Stained water usually has a greenish tint. All the algae and surrounding nutrients give it that greenish hue. This is considered best type of fertile water.

In stained or murky colored water you’ll find the bass much shallower and you’ll see them congregating on pieces of submerged cover, for example, a rockpile, stump, or a roadbed.

To help you determine if you water is “stained” or “clear”. Tie on a white spinnerbait and stick it in the water. By looking at your rod you can quickly figure out what 3-5 feet is. If the white disappears as you get to the 3-5 foot mark then you’re fishing in stained water.

That little trick is not perfect science but a good starting point until you figure out the rest of the fall pattern.

Drop shot crankbait swimbait jerk bait jig fishing a point drop shot fishing for beginners bluff walls

Lastly, if you want to get a little nerdy, use a Secchi disk.  A Secchi disk is used to scientifically determine water clarity.

About the size of a dinner plate, it’s divided into four quarters. Two black and two white. OR you can easily make one using a paint can lid. Simply paint it and drill and mount a screw in eye to the center. Attach a line and mark it in one-foot increments.

When it disappears that will tell you the visibility of the water.

Pick up your own Secchi Disk here!

how to determine water clarity with a secchi disk for bass fishing

Tip 3) Match The Hatch

The majority of times professional anglers refer to the fall as “junk bait fishing season”, meaning it’s of different anglers catching five different bass on five completely different lures!

Often you’ll see the fronts of their boats completely filled with rods rigged up with different baits.

One thing they’ll all agree on is you need to do is “match the hatch”. I’m sure you’ve heard that saying before, however, for those who haven’t, it means that you need to use a lure that matches the color of the baitfish that is in the lake you’re fishing.

In the picture above you’ll notice that 6th Sense makes a good example matching the hatch.

Here’s a quick way to determine what types of baitfish are in your lake. Head on over to your nearest tackle shop. Many times the owners know exactly what species of baitfish and what colors best mimic that species.

Another way you can check is to visit your local Game and Fish Department’s website and simply research the lake you’re going to be fishing on.

Tip 4) What are the best fall bass fishing lures?

Here are the best fall bass fishing lures:

Buzzbaits

booya buzzbait best fall bass fishing lure
Booyah Buzzbait

The buzzbaits large profile and aggressive sound in the water normally mean it’s a big bass bait. Many times smaller bass will completely shy away when a big buzzbait zips over their heads. Make sure you cover as much water as you can. 

Target steep banks that offers cover, parallel submerged grass lines and ledges. Areas that have rocky transitions are great high percentage locations. What I mean by “rocky transitions” are specific areas that go from large basketball-size chunk rock to small tiny gravel. 

This is one of the first baits you would use first thing in the morning/ before the sun rises or right after the sun sets. 

If it’s breezy or cloudy this is also one of the first topwater lure that you should choose.

Large Walking Baits

Large topwater walking baits for bass fishing Heddon Spook
Heddon Super Spook

Here’s another great topwater fall bass bait, the large topwater walking baits like the Heddon Super Spook. It’s large size and profiles typically attract larger bass.

If the conditions are calm and the water is clear, choose a spook in a very transparent shad pattern. Sometimes a completely clear bait with a white feathered treble hook on the tail is the way to go.

If the water is stained, chose a bait that’s opaque, or a lure you can’t see through.

Classic Sexy Shad patterns and chrome with a black or blue back are all great options.

Jigs.

Mythik Lures Rock Crawler Tungsten Football Jig

Jigs can be used during the entire fall season. Early in the fall when you see the bass stacked up on your sonar. drop you’re jig vertically.

Consider giving your jig a finesse cut to draw more strikes.

Later in the fall when you start targeting the backs of the cove, make sure you target the darkest and deepest spots that you can see. The bass will use these shallow/hidden spots as ambush points.

Then simply pitch the jig in there and wait for the bass to hammer it!

Crankbaits

Strike king Pro Model Series 5 MD crankbait

Crankbaits are great because you can target the exact depth in which the bass are holding. These little lures also awesome because you can really match the hatch with most color patterns.

It goes without saying that these baits come in a variety of shapes, sizes and running depths. There are wide-wobbling crankbaits and tight-wiggling crankbaits. Each has its own unique qualities that will produce under different circumstances.

In the late summer/ early fall, choose wide-wobbling crankbaits.  They produced more action and bass will react more aggressively to these.  If the water is stain this should be your first choice of crankbait.

Spro little john crankbait for fall bass fishing
Spro Little John Crankbait

Later in the fall/ early winter when the water has cooled significantly, the tight-wiggling crankbaits perform better.

By looking at the bait, you can quickly tell the difference between what type of crankbait it is…

Crankbaits that have narrow bodies and bills are tight-wiggling. Crankbaits with wider bodies and bills will be wide-wobbling.

Keep in mind, the wider the body and more sound and vibration it will produce.  That works well in stained or dirty lakes, however, it can turn away a bass in clear water or colder conditions.

The best fall crankbaits will perform better depending on the type of line you have tied on.  Wide-wobbling baits will perform better using 12-17-pound test fluorocarbon line. Tight-wiggling baits that are narrow and thin will have the best action using 8-10-pound test fluorocarbon line.

You’ll probably only want to use a crankbait when you can see the bass are stacked near the bottom. That way you’re lure can bump and deflect off the rocks and structure on the lake floor.

I do not recommend using a crankbait when seeing the bass suspended.  There are better options that we’ll get into later.

Lipless Crankbaits

Lucky Craft Lipless Crankbait LV-500 - Ghost Threadfin Shad

I put lipless crankbaits in a separate category because of their tight wobble. normally I recommend using when the water is a little cooler in the late fall. Retrieve them parallel to the structure or you can jig them vertically.

For the fall and winter months, color choice for lipless crankbaits is not rocket science. Like regular crankbaits you need to match the lure as close as possible to the forage as much as possible. Ghost Shad and Ghost Minnow, Chartreuse Shad are a natural color that you need to use if the water is clear.

An interesting anomaly is sometimes bright colors work really well in highly stained water. Colors such as red-white, bright red or fluorescent orange crawfish patterns will surprise you!

Together, this gives you the upper hand to trick tight-lipped bass into biting!

What do you do when you see schools of small shad and the bass are deep? Answer: You need to modify your lipless crankbait.

 >>>Click here to read how to MODIFY your lipless crankbaits!<<<

lipless crankbait for bass fishing
Xcalibur One Knocker Lipless Crankbait

Is sound important when fishing for bass with lipless crankbaits?  Heck yeah it is! In late summer/ early fall most anglers find that higher pitched rattles will work the best. In the late fall/ early winter months you’ll see more anglers switch to baits that have a low-pitched/single-deep knocking sound.  In water low-pitched knocking sounds travel farther and will call in fish from a far distance.

So the next time you’re in your favorite tackle shop shake a couple of lipless crankbaits to hear the different sounds they make!

Swimbaits

Swimbaits for fall bass fishing

Soft plastic swimbait are typically known as bass baits catchers! The great thing about fall is that you can use both large and small swimbait for fall bass!

Many anglers know that they can catch a monster bass on a large swimbait, and most know the bites are very few and far between. If the conditions are right, many bass will crush large swimbait when the water is choppy and if the sky is cloudy.

However, many times don’t use swimbaits to catch big bass. I’ll often use large swimbaits as search baits.  You see, if you throw a large swimbait that looks like a shad over an area that you think the bass are at, many times the bass will reveal themselves by following it back to the boat. Then what I’ll do is I will back off and either throw a smaller soft plastic swimbait or another fast-moving lure.

Small swimbaits for fall bass fishing

For smaller bait, use a spinning reel set up and let the bait hit the bottom and look your line to do slack.  Then give you swimbait a single pop off the bottom and slow retrieve back to your boat or the bank. You don’t have to maintain contact with the bottom, but just close to the bottom. You want to feel the jig head knocking into the rocks, not being dragged through them.

A basic 1/4 ounce open ball head or plain football head jigs with light-wire hooks work perfectly.  The shape of the head will bounce off and ricochet off the hard structure… that that will trigger more bites!

Jerkbaits

Jerkbaits for fall bass fishing

Finally, last but not least are the jerkbaits!  whether you bass fishing in Michigan, California, Texas or Georgia mostly everyone will mention the jerkbait as one of the best fall bass fishing lures!

Mark Zona from Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show drive home a great point…

You’ll hear from many anglers say that if you know where the bass will stage during the spring, you’ll be able to in the same location during the fall.  The only difference is that they’ll be feeding on different forage species.

During the spring, you’ll notice they’ll eat and kill a TON of bluegill.  During the fall, they’re focusing on fattening up and they’ll eat a TON of shad.  That’s where the jerkbait is dangerous.

Some of my favorite jerkbaits for fall bass fishing are: Megabass Vision 110, Lucky Craft Pointers, Strike King KVD Jerk, Rapala Husky Jerk, Smithwick Lures Floating Rattlin’ Rogue.

Megabass Vision 110 for fall bass fishing

For my colors, I like to match them to the water clarity. For clear water I’m going to choose translucent shad colors and that is what’s great about Megabass Vision 110. As the water becomes dingier I’ll add some flash. One of my favorite go-to colors is chrome with a black or blue back with a bright colored belly spot. If can be orange, red or chartreuse…MAN THAT’S DEADLY! 

Rapala Husky Jerk - Chrome, Black Back

If I had to choose one jerkbait, I’d chose the old school Rapala Husky Jerk. I’ll also like French pearl for really dingy water. Some anglers swear by using some really bright color patterns like Clown, but I haven’t had much luck with that pattern…but who knows maybe I will one day.

The majority of the time the bass will see the jerbait appearing like a struggling baitfish.  I’ve noticed hundreds of time the bass will swim up close but hover just below it.  A great trick I learned was to glue on Storm lead suspend dots to the belly.  This can cause the bait to suspend or even very slowly sink to the level of where the bass is holding at. 

Storm - Lead SuspenDots

I’ve seen these bass just wait for the lure to ever-so-slowly sink at the same level of their mouth and it’s like they have someone literally spoon feeding them.   Many times they will gently pop that bait in their mouth.  It’s crazy cool to watch!

Whenever you are using jerkbaits, you definitely want to you fluorocarbon line.  I recommend using 1a 0-pound test in areas with little to no grass or if they’re over deep water.  If the area has grass, then bump it up to 12-15-pound test.

Fluorocarbon is preferred because it’s invisible to the bass, it sinks (that gives your jerkbait even more subtle action…like a dying fish) and lastly it has no stretch.  Many times the bass will just “mouth it”. Meaning they’ll swim up to it and just hold on to it and not move. It will feel like you are hooked into a soggy towel! Fishing with fluorocarbon line allows you to quickly and easily detect the subtle bite and more importantly since it has no stretch you can efficiently set the hook.

Tip 5) Size Matters.

Size difference for different baits

Once you’ve determined the color of the lure you’re going to fish, don’t forget about the size of it. Many times I’ll see Anglers completely disregard the size of the lure, however, this could make or break your day on the water.

It does not seem like a big deal, but it really is. Unless the shad the bass are feeding on are normally really big, try to keep your bait as small as possible.  Your go-to weight should be ½-¾ ounce. Sometimes a smaller size bait is needed if the shad are small.

Drive home the point, the best baits for fall bass not only match the color of the forage, but also match the size!  If you think about it most of the threadfin shad, golden shiners, herring, minnows and dace are typically small in stature. Of course, there are few exceptions…but you get the point, right?  So when you find the ideal color that matches the prey, now match the size!

If you catch a few bass and keep them in your life well check to see if they throw up any shad that they have eaten earlier in the day. This will give you a good indication of what size lure to use.

Alberto Knot – Combining Your Main Line To Your Leader Line…

Video Cred: Salt Strong

So there you go you have it.  Your rock solid 5-Step Plan To Locate and Catch More Fall Bass

I know I put in a ton of information in this post and I hope I didn’t overwhelm you…

So I hope you’re not mad that I over delivered just a little bit.

All I care about it helping you catch more fish!

Until the time…

Catch Your Legend!

George

(Chief Fishing Enthusiast)

Leave a Comment