An easy way to hit the right depth with a jigging spoon
It might be old-school, but a jigging spoon is still one of the best techniques there is for fishing deep lakes with shad in winter and early prespawn. The shad will collect around deeper structure such as ditches, creek bends and that sort of thing during the day and bass will stay under them and feed from time to time
Time to dust off the jerkbaits
Now that the water temperatures are cooling down, jerkbaits are coming into their own again. Jerkbaits are hard to beat in highland lakes or Tennessee River impoundments where there are a lot of gizzard shad.
The odds favor a tight-wobbling crankbait
The rule of thumb has it that tight-wobbling crankbaits are better to use in the colder months and during prespawn. In my experience, that’s generally true, although I don’t have a bulletproof explanation for it. Maybe it has something to do with water temperature, color and depth.
Slow down and fish the windy side
Early cold fronts affect fishing, but probably not as much as some fishermen think. Unless it stays really cold for several days, the water temperature isn’t going to drop much and the fish aren’t going to move from where they are unless the baitfish move. If they do anything, they’ll hold tighter to cover for a while
Get in gear with crankbaits
You hear a lot about picking just the right gear ratio for fishing crankbaits, but to me it’s not a big issue. I favor a reel with a gear ratio that’s pretty much in the middle, about 6:1. I can use it for just about anything – top to bottom.
Use a label maker to stay organized
My boat is full of soft-plastics, and it used to drive me nuts trying to keep them all sorted out. On too many occasions, I would waste a lot of fishing time digging around in bags and boxes looking for something. However, what saved me was one of those handheld labelers.
Root up the shallows with a rattle bait
Bass are wandering all over lakes now, fattening up for winter. During fall, the bass tend to get more scattered and that’s when a rattle bait becomes a good search bait. Keep the trolling motor running and cover a lot of water quickly. Then, if you do get on a bunch of fish, you can slow down and fish something else if it calls for it.
Burning a spinnerbait is a good autumn ploy
It kind of goes against conventional wisdom, but about the only time of year when I speed up my lure retrieval is now – in fall. Bass are following shad in toward the banks and major feeder creeks and seem to be more eager to strike baits that are moving faster than usual.
Crankbait colors for any season
Fall is one of the best times of the year to use crankbaits, either on ledges or secondary ledges, ambush points leading into creeks or old roadbeds – anywhere bass are likely to stack up as the water and baitfish transition. During this time, you can still catch bass offshore as well with deep divers or along the banks with square-bills.
Face to face with the fish
When I’m fishing a tournament, I pay attention to how the grass is laying over, or the wind is blowing, and which way fish are likely to be facing relative to the current. Bass are professional eaters, and they know where the baitfish should be coming from.
As summer drifts into fall, explore all options
This time of the year when you head out for a day of fishing, don’t be close-minded; be ready to try anything. In fact, it’s a good time to practice all the different techniques you’ve wanted to try and to learn
Get the net!
There are all sorts of landing nets, but not all of them are good for bass fishing. I have three I use most often. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I carry a net with a telescoping handle that extends to about 6 feet. In a tournament, this is the net I want my co-angler to use.
Rig up for long-distance topwaters
I really like throwing a topwater in late summer and early fall because a lot of fish are returning to the shallows and roaming the banks in small schools looking for shad. Because you tend to cover a lot of water to find these wolfpack bass, use a surface lure that you can get some distance with on the cast.
Bag up next year’s tournament season
Once I find out where the next season of Walmart FLW Tour events are going to be held, I start loading tackle that I’m going to need for each of those tournaments. These are things I know I’ll use on a particular lake at a certain time of the year.
A drop-shot rig that’s trouble-free
The best new things for drop-shotting now are the special rigs that keep the line from twisting and make it easier to get tangles out of the line when you catch a fish. The Gamakatsu Swivel Shot with octopus hook is one of these.
Sight fishing isn’t just a spring fling
The dog days of summer from mid-August to mid-October are tough to fish because it’s hard to find a consistent pattern. Grass and other heavy shoreline cover can be good, but some older lakes don’t have any. Ledge fishing can be hit or miss because a lot of bass will roam all over the place trying to keep up with schools of shad. But a third pattern, and one of my favorites, is to ease down a bank fishing for wolfpack bass when they’re in the shallows hunting for bedding bream.
Offshore bass are on the move, but not in any rush
Don’t overestimate how far fish go when they move from where they were yesterday to where they are today. And don’t be surprised if tomorrow they might be back where they started from.
Ledges aren’t the only places to find big summer bass
Summer and ledge fishing go together, but you can get burned on an offshore bite where the fish are averaging about 3 pounds when you need them to be averaging 4 pounds or so to do any good in a tournament setting.
A one-two punch for grass bass
When fishing heavy grass in midsummer, it’s a good idea to keep both a frog and punching rig handy on your deck. If you have a bass blow up on a frog in a mat of milfoil or other grass, but it fails to connect, a lot of times a punching rig will catch it. My favorite punching rig is a 1- or 1½-ounce Reins tungsten weight with a 4/0 Cobra straight-shank flipping hook and either a Gambler Ugly Otter or a BB Cricket.
Lighten up on line size for more bites
There was a time when just about all fishermen used heavy line to fish worms or soft plastics because they believed they had to really rear back to set a hook or get a fish out of heavy cover fast. In some instances that’s still the case, but considering today’s fishing line and the sharpness of modern hooks, most of us don’t need to be fishing heavy line.
How to keep deep divers from rooting bottom
In the summer, there’s nothing that bass love to eat better than gizzard shad, which is probably why larger-profile crankbaits work so well on ledges during that time of year. The problem with most of the big crankbaits is that they’re deep divers, which means they dig too much when you’re fishing a ledge or hump in, say, 10 feet of water.
When the pressure is on
It’s not uncommon for several fishermen to find a bunch of fish in practice and then wind up beating them up during a tournament. After a couple of days, the fish that aren’t already caught are feeling the pressure and not as eager to bite. If you’re fairly confident there are still a few fish to be caught, go after them.
Two ways to fish a worm down deep
Shaky heads and Texas rigs catch a lot of bass off ledges in the summer and even though they have some of the same components, they provide two totally different looks when they get in the water.
Are you ready for the tournament?
I’m very serious about preparing for a tournament. I probably spend four hours or more the day and evening before a tournament getting everything ready. I make sure any mechanical issues with my equipment are settled. I put fresh line on the reels that I used in practice, and maybe change lines because of something I’ve noticed about the water clarity.
A rod for every fishing job