FLW & PAA Pro Angler Keith Combs
It seems that every year I cant wait for Summer fishing to get here, but half way through Summer I cant wait for the Fall. To me the fall transition in Texas begins about mid September, days are getting shorter and water temps are beginning to drop, and bass are changing daily. I have found probably the most important thing a fisherman should consider this time of year is not a particular pattern or lure, but the weather. Fall fishing is different than any other season, bass are looking for a reason to move and feed and a change in wind or a cloudy day may be all they need. I cant tell you how many Fall tournaments I have lost because I had pre-fished and dialed into a particular pattern and the weather changed and I did not. Now days I try to use my pre-fishing days looking less for bass and more for areas bass will move to if the weather gets right. A good example of a fall pattern in most Texas lakes is to fish windblown banks with running baits like square billed crank-baits and spinner-baits. But with cold fronts moving in and out so frequently you never know whether to pre-fish North or South banks, this is where just reading the weather for that day and just going fishing comes in.
Fall bait selection is also complicated in the fact that alot of different baits will work, the good thing is the fish are usually active and they will let you know when you are throwing the right one. My boat deck will most always have a few rods with shad imitating baits tied on. I prefer baits I can cover water quickly with and find schools of Fall bass. A shallow running crank-bait that will dive 3'-5' will work extremely well this time of year, a lipless crank-bait like a shad pattern Strike King red eyed shad will also produce. I will fish both baits fast and around a variety of cover from rip-rap banks to lay downs and shallow grass. Another great fall pattern is to fish isolated cover this can be in the form of brushpiles, stumps, laydowns. or boatdocks, just about any cover that is isolated and a bass can ambush bait from will work. The great thing about cover like this is you can fish it fast and bass will replenish throughout the day. I prefer to fish these types of places with a slow deliberate bait such as a jig or a shakey head worm. If a bass is there they will usually bite within the first couple of casts. Another fall pattern that should never be overlooked is a shallow topwater bite. When clouds and rain roll in during a cold front bass will feed heavily and sometimes a top-water will catch the biggest bass in the lake. I base my bait choice on the type of cover and the water color. Walking baits like a Zara Spook or Sammy will be one of my first choices in clearer water or around shallow grass. I will go to a frog type bait around thicker cover or in more stained water. A buzz-bait will also be tied on any day I'm on the water in the Fall.
Fall fishing can be some of the best of the entire year, especially when a weather change turns bass on around shallow cover, just remember to stay flexible in your bait selection and locations.
Crank em’ up
Several times every year someone asks, if you could only use one bait in tournaments what would it be? Although there is not a real good answer to this question. My answer is a crank bait.
I believe a crank bait has several features that will make both active and inactive fish bite and if you can catch inactive fish you can win tournaments. First is its visual appeal. Crank baits come in shapes and color patterns that will perfectly imitate anything that a bass eats and second a crank bait can be fished in such a way that it creates a reaction strike.
Inactive fish will often suspend away from a piece of cover such as a lay down or rock pile and will not feed unless provoked. A crank bait deflecting off cover does just that it provokes a reaction bite.
When choosing a crank bait my first consideration is the depth I want to fish. I try to choose a bait that will keep in contact with the cover I am fishing but will not constantly be hung up. For water 1’–5’ I usually start with a Strike King red eyed shad or a buoyant square billed bait. For 5’–12’ I prefer a Srike King series 5 and a series 6 for water deeper than 12’.
Line size is extremely important for crank bait fishing a thin diameter line will allow your bait to achieve its maximum depth and allow for the greatest deflection. For most applications, I use 8-10lb. monofilament line. The type of rod is equally important, I choose a rod that will allow me to make extremely long casts when fishing deep water, as well a short accurate roll casts when fishing tight around cover. My choice is a Power Tackle PGC-170 7’-0” fiberglass rod, the fiberglass blank allows fish to take a bait deeper and will make for fewer lost fish once they are hooked up.
Although there is no one, single bait or technique that will keep you in the pay line at tournaments a crank bait will definitely put fish in the boat when nothing else will.
Keith Combs www.trophybassguide.com