With day length, aka photo period, growing progressively shorter since the summer solstice (the longest day of the year), this trend will continue until the winter solstice (longest night). For bass, the Autumnal equinox means less daylight for feeding as winter’s leanness approaches.
For anglers, this means a time of ravenous feeding and, therefore, heightened opportunity. The only downside is that the fish are generally unsettled, as they spend much of their time looking for bait schools. Land on a hot spot and you can fill a hefty limit in five casts; but more often than not, you should plan on covering a lot of area and looking for replicable patterns.
If it sounds like the fall season offers fireworks potential, it does. However, nature has a way of balancing the fish’s exposure by preventing a non-stop feeding fest. This happens by way of cold fronts; those seasonal weather systems that incrementally usher in winter’s chill one push at a time.
In the typical pattern, the low pressure arrives first, as a line of cloudy, often stormy weather pushes through an area. As the unstable weather passes, the backside of the front delivers colder weather and the dreaded high-pressure “bluebird days.”
Beautiful for hiking and pleasure boating, these post-frontal conditions — usually lasting two days following a front — present very difficult fishing scenarios. Essentially, bass tuck deep into or under cover until the extreme brightness and high pressure dissipate. Bites are few and far between, so be prepared to slow down and thoroughly fish each target until cloudy skies return and reignite the bite.
What They Want
While the food remains front of mind, the fish also pay attention to depth. They may push onto flats or shallow edges to feed, but they favor areas with pronounced depth breaks that allow them to flee to deeper water when they feel threatened by excessive boat pressure, or when one of those fall fronts rattles their day.
Light and Shadows
Aside from bluebird days, standard weather patterns will bring a mix of clouds and sun. In a nutshell, the fish will roam during dim conditions and pull tighter to docks, brush, laydowns, etc. under sunny skies.
With fall fish often scattered, swimbaits like the LIVETARGET Slow Roll Shiner rigged on a Mustad Alpha-Point Infiltrator Swim Hook can be very productive. Whether you’re tracing dock perimeters or grass lines, fishing seawalls and riprap at a 45-degree angle, or covering open water, that convincing baitfish form is usually an easy sell.
Flipping jigs with craw or creature bait trailers makes a good targeting bait for hitting dock pilings, stumps, isolated rock, and brush piles. Sending that jig under docks and beneath overhangs is a good bet during sunny hours, so work on your skipping game.
Given the generally keyed-up mood of fall bass, faster-falling jigs tend to excel at triggering bites. The best ways to hasten the fall rate — jig size and trailer size. The first is a straightforward weight thing, but trailer choice is all about water resistance.
Specifically, anglers who want their jig to zip past brush piles, laydowns, docks and other bass-friendly cover will downsize their trailer choice and/or go with sleeker, more streamlined baits. While bulky creature baits and craw trailers with large flapping claws have their place, smaller trailers and those with less resistant forms are the way to go.
Topwaters often fool the fish right at daybreak and anytime they come up schooling. Crankbaits are also effective for covering water, but make sure your hard baits are fitted with Mustad AlphaPoint In-line Triple Grip Treble Hooks.
Lastly, keep a dropshot handy in the fall. As a backup or a first choice, a finesse worm rigged on a Mustad AlphaPoint Dropshot Hook is a bite-getter.