Locating and Landing Late Fall Largemouths from ShoreBy Israel Dunn - November 1, 2014
StructureThe first is structure it can be almost anything. Wood lay downs, rock piles, patches of submerged weeds, bridge pilings, even a storm water discharge pipe. In cold water bass aren't going to expend a lot of energy chasing down food. As long as the structure provides an ambush point the bass will normally be there. Locating structure is one of the most important things for late fall bass fishing. Find anything that baitfish can relate to and is within casting distance from shore.
FoodThe second thing food is a no brainer. I get a lot of questions about how to find fish this time of year and the easy answer is to go right to the food source. If you're hungry where are you going to go eat, the middle of an open field or to a food court? The bass will be at the food court. This can be obvious things like weed flats full of panfish, or the mouths of rivers and creeks swollen with migrating chubs and suckers. Or it can be less obvious things like bridge pilings that heat up during the day and trigger late afternoon insect hatches. The point is if you find the food you'll find some bass.
TransitionsFinally my best spots have transitions. These are the areas where the body of water changes. The areas going from weeds to sand, shallow water to deep water, or slack to moving water. Bait fish travel up and down these transitions. They gather in these areas and the bass know it. If I can find structure that attracts food, and is located near a transition point I know that the bass will be present.
So now that we know where the fish are, what do we use to catch them? I like to use baits that cover a lot of water. If your thinking diving crank baits and Echotails your on the right track. For crank baits I prefer the more erratic action you get from square bills. Standard diving cranks will work, but a more exaggerated wobble is the real key. Bass don't want to work when it's cold out, so the lure needs to look as injured as possible as it comes through the water. The Echotail is a relatively new blade bait on the scene. It uses a replaceable soft plastic tail to impart more action through the lure. The blade comes pre-rigged with a Kalin's grub tail but the barbed tail makes it easy to experiment with other products on the market. This time of year more action means more fish. Echotails can be adjusted through a system of holes on the back of the lure. This allows for the erratic wobble were looking for and their quick sink rate (blade bait) makes them an obvious choice for fall fishing.
Rod setup is simple since I am throwing crank baits and Echotails I tend to stick with a 7' 2" fiberglass rod. I like to use fiberglass rods since they tend to deaden the vibrations of the lure. This makes it easier to detect the strikes and it keeps my hands from taking a beating. Also with the air temperatures in the mid 30's I don't have to worry about breaking a graphite rod on the hook set. As far a reels are concerned, use what you are comfortable with. Spinning or bait casting it doesn't really matter. Just try to keep the gear ratio at 5:3-1 or lower. I personally like to spool up with fluorocarbon line this time of year since it doesn't absorb water like braid and monofilament. Usually something in the 10-20 pound range is more than adequate. Then just attach your lures with a clip (Echotail) or loop knot (crank bait) so they can achieve full range of motion on the retrieve.
Now that we know where the bass are and what setup to use let's talk about the actual catching part. Try to make your casts so that they land past the structure. You want your lures to move across the structure on the retrieve. Landing the lure close or nearby isn't going to be good enough. Remember what I said about bass not working hard for their food? You need that lure to move right in front of their face. A long cast that works the full length of structure is going to be much more effective than a cast that starts at the edge of it. Next you want to make contact, lots of contact. If your lures aren't coming back to the shoreline with weeds or debris your doing it wrong. Square billed cranks deflect wonderfully when ripped through weeds and knocked against timber. The Echotail is also great at deflecting on contact, the nose weight and metal body were made for crashing through structure and calling out the fish. Just keep in mind that when your crank bait hits something stop it, that split second it suspends will often be followed by a hit, and when your Echotail makes contact keep right on reeling. Don't give that Echotail a chance to drop into snags. The body is curved so if you keep it moving it will normally just roll up and over whatever it encounters. Finally and perhaps the most important, SLOW DOWN. The reason I recommended a lower gear ratio reel is that many anglers use the same retrieve speed they used all summer. The bass are rarely in a chase it down mood this time of year. A low gear ratio will force you to retrieve slower. I always tell my clients to reel as slow as you possibly can, then next cast go just a little bit slower than that. You want your retrieve speed to be the slowest you can reel with the lure still swimming properly. That should help it stay in the structure, making contact, and catching fish.
So this November when the weather is inviting get off the couch, grab a rod, and head for the closest body of water. Whether it's a creek, river, lake, or pond the bass are still biting. Just find some structure, cast an Echotail, and reel in your late fall trophy.