You know fall is here when you see the leaves starting to change, the cooler breezes blow through and comfortable temperatures take the place of summer's stuffy heat. A lot of people are thinking about where to hang their deer stands. But if you refuse to put away the rod and reel and park the boat like me, you're out there trying to figure out how to catch a bass during the fall transition.
Bass instinctively sense a change coming and break old habits that got them through the summer. Knowing where and how to intercept these bass during their transition is vital to success.
There are many ways to target bass during the fall transition. I hear guys at the weigh-ins talking about catching lots of fish on a Berkley Gulp! Jerk Shad, but until recently I had never been able to work it into my repertoire. During this season on the BASS Elite Series I was able to figure out some great ways to catch bass in the spring and summer with the Gulp! Jerk Shad. Now that fall has arrived, I've come up with two more applications.
Bass are like a lot of creatures in that they tend to be more active feeders in the fall with the approach of winter. Plus, this year's shad crop, by now, has reached bite-sized stage. This year's sunfish hatch is also growing and likely to venture away from the shoreline and into deeper water, making them easy bass targets.
Like they do during the rest of the year, bass will make their fall transition movements along contour lines and structure. But not all bass begin this shift at the same time. The two things that I am looking for when determining where the bass will migrate is the presence of shad near the top of the water column (either seen with my eyes or on my electronics) and the presence of structure. These two elements are the keys to successfully using a Gulp! Jerk Shad in the fall.
There is probably no better bait to use on schooling fish than a Jerk Shad. So when I find bass busting the surface on shad (or other baitfish), it's the first thing I throw. My setup for schooling fish includes a 6 ?-foot medium-heavy Fenwick Techna AV rod and a high-speed Abu Garcia REVO STX spooled with 12-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon (in open water) or 15-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon (near cover). Using a 5/0 extra-wide gap superline hook, I rig the Jerk Shad either Texas-rigged with the hook barely piercing the bait or with the hook exposed depending on the amount of cover in the water. Most of the time I throw it weightless, but if wind or other conditions call for a weight, I use lead tape on the hook to give me the extra casting distance and a little quicker fall. The lead tape allows the bait to fall horizontally instead of nose first, like it would with a bullet weight.
I use bright colors in the early morning or on overcast days to give fish the contrast they need to see it. The Gulp! formula spreads through the water, giving them a scent to key on, but it never hurts for them to see it, too. If the day is bright and sunny, I will go with more natural colors like watermelon.
I cast the bait in or near the schooling fish; let it fall for a second and twitch the bait back toward me. After a few twitches, I let the bait fall again to simulate a wounded and dying fish. The big 5/0 hook gives me better hook-up ratios, and the scent of the Gulp! Jerk Shad can make a schooling situation like this very fast paced and intense.
My other go-to fall tactic with a Jerk Shad, when the schooling bite goes away and the water is clear, is Skippin' docks. If water clarity is more than three feet, this tactic works well. The shape of the Jerk Shad and the prey that it represents is ideal for Skippin'. Using 10-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon with an Abu Garcia 803 spinning reel on a 6 ?-foot Fenwick HMG rod, I rig a Jerk Shad weightless on the same 5/0 extra-wide gap superline hook.
Wooden docks, metal docks, floating docks, boat slips any area that bass might be holding to as they migrate along the lake's contour lines on their way to deeper channels will be a good place to skip the Jerk Shad. Just skip it like you would any other bait and use the same method of alternating between twitching and sinking until you get a strike. With normal lines, you might want something bigger than 10-pound test, but the Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon is super tough and abrasion resistant, plus the smaller diameter gives the Jerk Shad more movement to entice a big strike.
Early fall can be a great time to catch bass. For the most part, the weather is still comfortable for those of us sitting in the boat all day, and the lakes aren't as crowded with pleasure boaters and personal watercrafts. Plus, these seasonal bass migration patterns give us a great starting point to focus our fishing efforts. With a bag of Berkley Gulp! Jerk Shads, there's no reason you can't catch your biggest bass of the year in open water or around structure.