Throughout the years there have been many people talking about the importance of listening to what fish tell you in order to catch a good bag of fish. I believe there is a major misconception on this
thought process. Most anglers can go out and land fish based on the time of year. Others attempt to analyze water and fish behavior. I would love to say that I talk to fish or there is a magical code to unlock in October, but there's not. I can say fish are talking and I've got my ears on.
Perhaps the most important fish talking isn't the bass. I've had more success in October listening to the baitfish popping around the surface. They can tell you more about bass than actually developing a pattern blindly. Granted, I will develop a solid pattern from the bass I catch, but the baitfish will clue me into their location.
On any lake that I fish in the fall, I immediately head toward creek channels. These fish-holding pockets offer a bountiful feast of baitfish and cover for bass to lie and wait. During the first few hours of fishing, I pull up to a creek channel with my trolling motor on low, trying to listen as far back as I can for baitfish hitting the top of the water column. This gives me the encouragement I need to start my fishing from the back of the channel. The hard-core anglers are wondering why I fish back to front. Well, I like to start shallow because the baitfish typically go to the shallowest point in the creek channel.
Working the back of the channel, I throw by every laydown and structure change I see. It doesn't matter if it is hanging out of the water or it is a shallow cut that runs inland. I am hitting everything while working my way out of the channel. Most of the channels I fish will be very stained, so I want to throw something that closely resembles the baitfish that these bass are chasing.
My choice bait for these situations is a 4-inch Berkley ® HollowBelly swimbait in Ayu color. But beware of the color because Ayu may not be a close enough match to the bait swimming around. The
best solution for the problem is to pack a few colors that may work in your area and give them a shot. The HollowBelly comes fully rigged and ready to fish, but I like to up the hook size to a 5/0 weighted hook. By rigging the bait to fish heavier cover, I can specifically target those hard-to-reach fish, and with the 1/8-ounce hook I get enough weight that I can put some distance between the fish and me.
The rest of my gear is standard issue in any boat these days. My 7-foot medium action rod paired with an Abu Garcia ® Revo ® Premier is a deadly combination, especially if you are in tight quarters. Using 17-pound Trilene ® 100% Fluorocarbon, tie the hook with a double improved clinch knot for the best results. The abrasion resistance of 100% Fluorocarbon and the overall knot strength of the line make this technique a win-win for everybody well, except for the fish.
Remember, it is important to put some distance between you and the fish. If comfortable, put at least 30-50 feet in between the two. Cast toward your target, let the rig sink a bit, and begin the retrieve. The lifelike action of the bait will do the rest of the work. There are a variety of speeds, but fish will communicate to you about what they are looking for when they strike that is their way of communicating. If you get a few strikes on a medium retrieve this should hone your attention toward a medium retrieve. Think of them as clues to a puzzle that you are piecing together. Once complete, the reward will be better understanding of how different fish speak and what clues they are sending. It will make you a better angler and more aware of the surrounding voices.
A pattern should be detected early. If you are getting strikes early, stick to the course you have set. I hate to think that it takes a while to figure out a pattern, but if that is the case, I'll speed up my presentation and possibly switch tactics. When you start to listen to the fish around the water they will tell you what they like and don't like; it is up to you to have your ears on and your rod ready.