The rate at which a lake drops has some bearing on the severity of the impact, but with fish relocation, water clarity, and bait movement all in play, there’s no escaping the reality. Case in point: The Bassmaster Elite event on Oklahoma’s Lake Tenkiller saw significant impacts from water level fluctuations that started with heavy spring-summer rains that pushed the lake as high as 32 feet above normal pool of 632. A week before the Mid-September event, the lake had been pulled down to just under 5 feet above normal, but the water kept falling during much of the tournament.
Of course, lake declines are not always so extreme. In fact, the annual fall drawdown that occurs throughout the nation’s reservoirs systematically bring water levels down to “winter pool,” which allows room for the next season’s influx.
For any such scenarios, Lester employs a one-two punch strategy designed to give him the best chances of finding productive areas and then capitalize on what is often a scattered bite. In a nutshell, he’s not one to overstay his welcome during the fall.
“The biggest for me in the early fall is to not get too tied down in one area,” Lester said. “At Tenkiller, we saw fish caught from a foot and a half of water out to 25 feet of water. You have fish that are finishing up their summer patterns, you have fish that are starting their fall transitions to the backs of creek.
Lester’s two-pronged approach starts with a topwater bait, like a Whopper Plopper 130. The idea, he said, is to make as many long casts as possible to cover lots of water in effort to get that noisy, enticing bait near aggressive fish.
“You can put your trolling motor on 40-50 percent, never take your foot off the pedal and you can literally cover miles of water and look for those active fish,” he said. “It’s very important to swap out my topwater hooks for Size 1 Mustad KVD Triple Grip trebles. I throw my topwater on braided line and the Triple Grips are big enough in size that you don’t bend those hooks and they keep the fish hooked very well.”
Another important note about falling water is that it will take previously productive shoreline cover out of the picture. Drawdowns are notorious for leaving prime laydowns, logs, stumps, etc. high and dry. On the other hand, such attrition means any cover deep enough to remain in the water will be gold.
“A laydown tree or a rock pile is an obvious target in the fall, but when you’re facing a drawdown situation, I feel like those fish want to get on the next available cover, so that makes that spot even better,” Lester said. “In these situations, I’ll tie on a 4/0 Mustad Grip Pin Max Flipping Hook with a creature bait and pick it apart.
“And always pay attention to where you’re getting your bites; if it’s at the mouth of a pocket, if it’s on a main lake bank. A lot of times, you can run that as a pattern.”