Outdoor Essentials - The 1-2-3 of Fall Transition Bass Fishing

Bass Pro Shops ProsBy:  Lance Baker, Bass Pro Shops Altoona Pro Staff

Well, September is here and a lot of you are just itching to get in your deer stands and day dreaming of that once in a lifetime GIANT to walk in front of you at bow range!  Well, for us bass fishermen, it's almost the same!

Fall is a fantastic time of year here in Iowa to accomplish your goal of catching (and RELEASING :) ) one of many GIANT largemouth/smallmouth, as well! Just think of fall as the opposite in transition from spring.  On our local lakes the fish are going to start making their way from their summer, deep areas back up shallow for what is, by far, the ultimate in feeding to put weight on before our dreaded winter!

The first thing that’s important in this transition is the obvious…falling water temps. We are going to need some cool nights and days ahead of us to trigger this move.

Start really paying attention to the weekly forecast and watch for the water to jump down into the 70’s. The real key here is not necessarily a magic water temp number but more of a 5-10 degree shift that will trigger this move almost at a blink of an eye. Fall rains can also be really key for making some temps fall quickly!

The next key is to familiarize yourself with what your local lakes main forage may be. 

Here on a few of our favorite reservoirs (Saylorville & Rathbun) the shad are what we all are looking for with their migrations back from being suspended schools in deep water to them moving up and back towards the creek arms. Lakes with bluegills are not much different...every species must feed for the upcoming winter months.  Remember spring transitions as mentioned before and reverse it by starting deep at the first stopping point whether it is a main lake point leading into a big creek arm or the first break line leading into a cove.  From there simply work your way shallow stopping at all secondary’s on the way until you find where the fish are concentrated. Follow your channels all the way back and check every sudden depth change or potential holding structure you may find along the way.  I will say, if you are fishing in lakes with grass, stay on the lookout for any green aquatic vegetation left because the fish WILL be there around it.  Bluegills seem to follow the grass lines in our lakes shallow as they die off feeding on what’s left in the living weeds, plus the oxygen content is higher there just like in the summer time.  Watch your graph as well and if you see a good grass line, use a spoon or rattle-trap and let it sink to the bottom and rip chunks of grass up with a swift lift until you find the green stuff!!  You’ll have no doubt when you find it due to the dying grass looking to be about like what you’d have in a two week old salad ;) Make sure to keeps your eyes sharp and always be looking.

Bait choices in the fall can be little more open with the fish feeding hard this time of year. 

Remember to match the hatch of your local lake and fish accordingly.  It is very easy to start with search baits to cover water on your progression shallow.  Start with spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, swim jigs, lipless cranks, and square bill crankbaits covering as much water as possible and making sure to deflect off any rock, wood, etc.  The fish will be on a reaction bite and these will for sure get one of our local sows to swing and bite.  Once you have found the depth and area these fish are holding in try and keep them fired up as long as possible with repeated cast to keep them chasing.  Have a buzzbait or spook style topwater tied on, because if you get them blowing the shad up or running the bluegill packs hard it will be the ultimate topwater bite! Once things have slowed down a bit (which lets hope they don’t ;) slow down your presentation like normal and try and pick through a few extra bites and potentially a BIG one with more finesse presentations such as a shaky-head, small finesse jig, or any of your favorite soft plastics.  It seems this time of the year when you set the hook at anytime it could be an Iowa fish of a lifetime!

Kary and I want to thank everyone for all the good wishes this season and for following us on the Bass Pro Shops Altoona Facebook page and blogs! We hope to see everyone this fall out on the water sharing a tradition we were all lucky to be handed down!!!  Remember if you ever have any questions from either one of us, feel free to post them on the FB page and we will get them answered ASAP!!!  

 --LanceLance Baker

 Learn more from our Pros at the upcoming Fall Fishing Weekend, September 22-23!


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