I don't much care for summer bass fishing. It's not like I have a choice, I fish when and where there are tournaments. It's just that fall tournaments and fall bass fishing is so much more fun and productive for me. I like fishing right now. This time of year is my favorite and I catch lots of fish.
Now, bass are in the mood for a change in habitat and diet. Not that they leave the deep haunts of summer necessarily but at least most of them are not suspended, waiting for a ball of shad to graze by. The shad might be the key to this, one of the biggest changes of the year for bass. Shad move to the backs of creeks feeding into most lakes and of course many bass follow them all the way to the back, eating everything they can catch. But certainly not all of them. Many, if not most, hang back, setting up on drops and ledges in front of the creeks. I also think it's the bigger fish that stay in the deeper water that relates to these creeks, coves and bays. They will find the migration routes and stay there.
These fall bass are the ones that have a big change of diet also. They start eating crawfish in a reckless manner. They gorge on them. It must be some instinctive thing for the fish. The crawfish are high in protein and help get the bigger fish through the upcoming winter maybe. I don't know why they eat them now, I just know they do. And this puts me in perfect position to use my confidence bait, a jig with a soft plastic trailer.
There are three things I try to keep in mind for these fall jig bass. One, keep changing depth. Two, keep changing the retrieve. And three, don't give up on it too quickly.Most of the time these fish are going to be in 15 to 25 feet of water. That's most of the time, not all the time. Choosing the right depth is more critical now than at any other time of year. You can be a couple of feet off and not get bit but move just a little and fill a weigh-in sack. I'll catch them as deep as 40 feet and as shallow as, say, 5, but 90% of the time these fish are going to be in that 15 to 25 foot range.
How I work the jig will make a ton of difference as well. Most of the time I stroke it. If you were to ask three pros what that means you might get three different answers. And they all might be right, but here's the way that works for me. Cast and let the jig fall to the bottom. Shake it a little, then with the rod pointed right at the water sharply raise the tip until you think that jig has come off the bottom some four, five or even six feet. Let it fall to the bottom, move it some, then repeat. Most of the time you'll feel the thump on the fall.
It is important to keep the bait moving. Not as much as say a crankbait but almost. Cover as much water as possible without losing bottom contact. Sometimes you have to change up and work it slow or even drag it, but normally not. The fish will tell you what to do.
I use football head jigs for this when I can. If there is a lot of brush I might use a more normal jig shape but a football head just seems to work better. Depending on water depth I'll use anywhere from a half-ounce jig all the way up to an ounce and a quarter. I like a purple and brown skirt but it's hard to beat green pumpkin. The trailer is very important. I'm convinced it will mean the difference between a big sack or a sack that's just so-so. I use a Berkley ® PowerBait ® Double Tailed Grub most of the time. The tails are split more than the other brands and it is made of PowerBait so the bass hold onto it much longer. Green pumpkin is the color unless the water is really clear and it's sunny out. Then I'll change to a watermelon colored skirt on my jig with a watermelon with red glitter on my grub. The only trailer change I'll make is to a Gulp! ® Bat Wig Trailer if the fish don't seem to be eating really well. That Gulp! will make a non-eating fish hungry. It's amazing.
You really need a heavy action rod that doesn't weigh too much. Casting a heavy seven-foot rod all day can be tiresome. The Abu Garcia ® Revo ® Premier reel is perfect for this and several other types of bass fishing. Strong and light. The weight makes a huge difference at the end of the day.
Line choice is always important. For this fall jig fishing I use 15- or 20-pound test Trilene ® 100% fluorocarbon. There are several reasons I like this line for this application. Low stretch, the fish can't see it and it holds knots extremely well. When you whack a big fish hard it places a lot of pressure on the knot. This Trilene can take it.
This fishing tactic needs to be given the proper amount of time to develop. It's not often I go out there and immediately start catching them. I have to work at it some to figure out what the fish want exactly. But once I do, look out. So please, when you try this deep fall jig fishing give it the time it deserves, build your own confidence level with it and you'll catch more and bigger fall bass than you ever thought possible.
I just love bass fishing in the fall. It's a shame they don't hold some Elite Tournaments then. I could make some real money and have a heck of a time doing it.