Finding Fish on a Northern Lake in Fall
The fall can be a tough time to catch bass in many parts of the country, but they really go to biting in others. While northern waters see cooler temps sooner, the southern part of the country can still be pretty warm in the fall. The cooler air temps and water temps up north tend to get the fish biting better than southern waters in the fall. My goal here is to point you in the right direction on those northern fisheries.
This is going to be sweatshirt weather to fish in the fall for bass up north. Many of the lakes have lots of underwater grass that the bass live in or around all summer. This is mostly where the largemouth will be. The grass to start dying with the cooler weather. The green fish will still relate to it but it will be starting to disappear. Flipping D Bombs into the thicker clumps can still produce under sunny conditions. A topwater bite really starts to get going. The inside grass line (the space between the grass and the bank) is a great place to start with topwater. Those largemouth will cruise that space early and late in the day or during other low light conditions. I love a walking topwater like a Zara Spook for those inside grass lines.
My favorite fall largemouth bite up north is fishing a SPRO frog over the mats of that dead grass. Many times, that grass will die and then get blown by the wind into pockets, around docks, or simply float in the open space. Largemouth love these mats and will blast that frog fished around them. Just as easy as the wind blows them in, they can blow them out. I have had days where I got a bunch of bites in some mats only to go back the next day and the mats are gone.
The smallmouth often spend their summer time in deeper waters but start to head shallower as the temps start to drop. Many of the bigger lakes up north including the Great lakes, will see the smallmouth actually migrate shallower to feed on their way to where they will spend the winter. Finding those shallower flats that have lots of bait is the key for the big brown ones. The feed bag is definitely on when this happens.
The jerkbait, swimbait, spy bait, and spinnerbait are the best baits for fishing these flats and catching those fall smallies. However, don’t think for one second that I will go fish for smallmouth without a drop shot. The jerkbait I like is the SPRO McStick 110 in McAyu. It is a bait fish type color and has some gold, flash, and a touch of chartreuse. I throw this on a Cashion 6’9” medium action rod with a bait caster but you can use spinning setup. I throw the jerkabait under windy conditions. The swim bait is a finesse one. I have caught a ton of smallmouth on the Missile Baits Shockwave 3.5 on a 3/16 ounce jig head. It is perfect on a 7’3” Cashion spinning rod and an 8-pound Sunline Sniper leader. This is great for covering flats less than 5 feet deep. Those deeper flats in the 4 to 12 foot range are well suited for a SPRO Spin John 80 (spy bait). Be sure to use a longer Cashion spinning rod like the 7’6” one I designed just for spin baits. Another wind driven bait is the spinnerbait. This is a big fish bait in the fall. Don’t ignore it if you want a good chance at a big brown bass.
The smallmouth arsenal needs to be employed in the right places. The flats you want to start on are going to be the ones closest to those deeper summer haunts. Look for the biggest points and humps then the closest flats. Bait is the other key ingredient. The bait can be really small or further under the water so don’t expect to see it real easy like shad in southern lakes. Don’t be afraid to cover lots of water and be sure to hit all the corners, irregularities, and the like.Northern waters can be amazing in the fall. They can also be tough if you are in the wrong areas. If you are not getting bit and there is no bait, you need to move. It can be a lot of moving to find them but it is well worth it when you do. Get out there and smash them before it gets too cold!