It has finally begun to feel like fall! In a recent article on the fall fishing season, I mentioned that threadfin shad and bluegill were the main baitfish that hungry fish like largemouth bass, striped bass, hybrid bass, crappie, and catfish would be searching for and feeding on during the fall season. With that in mind, what lures are good choices to catch fish during the fall season?
For striped bass and hybrid bass, nothing beats fresh shad or bluegill presented live on a rig similar to a Carolina rig with a circle hook or a live bait hook. Some anglers will cast a live shad below a cork on points and humps and others will troll crankbaits for striped and hybrid bass. At Lake Oconee some surface feeding will occur during the fall and flukes, casting spoons and a popping rig will catch both hybrid and striped bass.
However, do not be surprised if you get a strike from a striped bass or hybrid bass while casting crankbaits or even spinnerbaits for largemouth bass. Largemouth, striped, and hybrid bass will all frequent the same shallow water areas to feed on shad.
The catfish have begun moving into the large coves and can be taken from docks and boats in water from 4 to 14 feet deep. Fresh shad or bream presented either live or as cut bait will get you a strike. This type fishing is not for 10-pound line and a Zebco 33 reel. Some of the catfish will be greater than 20 pounds and they will head for the nearest dock post or underwater brush, so you need a stout rod and reel with at least 20-pound test line.
The crappie fishing really heats up during the fall, and trolling jigs/minnows or shooting jigs around and under docks become the primary technique used by crappie anglers. Trolling will pick up as soon as the water temperature drops into the mid-70s.
Many anglers think that spring is the best time to crappie fish but the stable and cool fall season is hard to beat for crappie. In addition to trolling and shooting docks, a good number of crappie remain in underwater trees, deeper brushpiles and artificial timber that has been placed in the lake by anglers and the Wildlife Resources Division. Dropping jigs or minnows into the brushpiles and structures will catch crappie.
More anglers target largemouth bass during the fall than most of the other gamefish and for good reason. The pleasant weather and hungry largemouth makes for some excellent fishing. At the beginning of the fall season, the largemouth can be hard to pattern because they are constantly on the move from their summer hideouts.
Once fall sets in for good, anglers targeting largemouth bass just need to concentrate on where the shad are located because the largemouth bass will usually be in close proximity to the shad. Sometimes the largemouth will key on bluegill in the center of coves but shad is their primary food source in the fall.
Several lures will produce during the fall when targeting largemouth bass and it might change from day to day. Most of the largemouth bass are going to be in shallow water in the 1-10 foot range so choose lures that work in that depth range.
Since the largemouth are feeding heavily on shad, crankbaits are an excellent choice during the fall. Try to match the size and color of the baitfish but keep in mind the clarity and color of the water. Right now, the water is very clear to lightly stained and that makes choosing lure color easier. Lure colors with combinations of white, black, blue, and grey are good choices but other colors will certainly work.
Square-billed crankbaits are an excellent choice in the fall. I continue to catch largemouth during the fall on the older Poes RC-7. I was given a bunch of RC-7s by an angler before he passed away and I still use those lures with success. New lures have been designed using the design and action of the RC-7 and will work. The old reliable Shad Rap is a great fall crankbait and it works in the correct zone for fall largemouth.
When not throwing crankbaits during the fall, I go with topwater baits that include hard baits like Bang-O-Lure, Tiny Torpedo, buzzbaits, Zara Spooks and Pop-Rs. I also throw my favorite soft bait a floating worm like Zoom’s Trick worm. The lake’s clear water might create some good action for you on swimbaits.
Other lures like spinnerbaits, jigs, Carolina rigged plastics, and split shot/drop shot plastics will also take fall largemouth bass. Stick with the lures and techniques that you have most confidence in and you will catch some fall fish. The fall season is when a large variety of lures will work for largemouth bass. Fall is a great time to fish so get out on the water and several varieties of game fish will be biting. Good fishing and see you next week.
—Outdoors columnist Bobby Peoples can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.