Kayak Bass Fishing Tennessee

Kayak Bass Fishing Tennessee in the Late Fall | Stick to Topwater

Kayak Bass Fishing Tennessee during the transition from summer to fall signals not only flannel shirt weather around my house, but it is also my favorite time to fish the creeks along the Cumberland River in Montgomery and Stewart Counties. There are three creeks where you might find me when the days get shorter, water temperatures starts to drop and the water levels begin dropping to winter pool; Yellow, Guices and Wells.  

All three have different water clarity, depth, length, and cover but they also have two things in common during the fall; long sections that can only be accessed by kayaks, canoes, or shallow running Jon boats and they have the potential for an angler to catch their personal best largemouth bass.

Kayak Bass Fishing Tennessee: Fall is the Time to Catch a PB

Almost every fish, (almost), that I have caught that were over 6-pounds in these creeks has come between September and December; my biggest coming the day after Thanksgiving from Wells Creek.  

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All of those fish have come on a spinnerbait or one of three topwater baits; buzzbait, Zara Spook or a Rapala Skitterpop…with the buzzbait leading the count.  To be fair, I know the likelihood that I will catch a large fish on topwater is high so I fish it more, but who doesn’t love the sound of a 6 to 7 -pound bass crushing a topwater bait in a foot of water on a cool afternoon?

Catching these fish can be frustrating. 

I have fished from daylight till dark without a single fish attacking the lures, on the next day, there have been twenty to thirty that smash the bait as it crosses close to the bass. Then there are the days when you get only one bite; but it counts! When your goal is a personal best, you must commit no matter how bad the day seems to be going.

I find it unimaginable when I meet folks who say they never had a lot of luck with topwater (especially in the fall) since I would rather throw topwater than eat, but if you don’t overthink it, you will catch fish. I have used the same techniques I am about to share on bodies of water that are similar across several states, so I feel pretty confident that you can have some luck if you commit.

Kayak Bass Fishing Tennessee: Make it a Buzzbait if You Have to Choose

If you choose only one bait to try; make it a buzzbait.  I like to rig a 7-foot (or more) St. Croix Mojo Bass rod, medium-heavy with as fast a tip as I can find (I use both spinning and casting reels – so you choose) with a Shimano reel. I prefer the cheap Wal-Mart, 1-2 dollar white skirted buzzbait tipped with a chartreuse 3-inch grub.

NOTEFor the record: I have argued with everyone, tail up or down on the grub is up to you, but if it ain’t up, you have it all wrong. Just sayin’.

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I chunk and wind the bait across every stick, every shadow, every tree extending into the water, every stump or brush pile that I can find in, on, or around a flat close to deeper water.  

I try to run the bait parallel along the length of shallow wood, or if I cannot get that angle, I throw the bait so that I can retrieve it across the cover at the point it extends out of the water.  If there is a root ball barely sticking out of the water, I will hit it from every angle I can; these are gold. I go for quantity when it comes to casts, hit it all, but make accurate casts.  

If there is a deep hole close, the odds are higher, but don’t discount a flat that extends for a half mile… if there is a stick poking out of the water, run that buzzbait as close as you can and hold on tight. After one blows up on it, you will find yourself holding your breath in anticipation.

Kayak Bass Fishing Tennessee: Don’t Forget About These Great Fall Baits Either

Keep a spinnerbait tied on and handy. Everyone close to me knows I use the Mann’s Classic bait (again white with chartreuse tail – up!) and the second that monster misses your topwater offering, throw that spinnerbait in there. I retrieve it as slow as I can to feel the blade thumping… the reason I love those spinnerbaits, the wire is so thin… and bump it against whatever the bass was sitting on. They are already mad from the first pass and this often triggers them to react.

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Now, if you can walk a Zara Spook, use it over the buzzbait.  

If not, practice, because it will be worth it; the strikes more intense. The spook’s design and weight make it one of the easiest baits to learn how to “walk the dog” with, but once you learn it, move to the Rapala Skitterpop. I prefer the Skitterpop because it is more versatile; it can be walked, popped, erratically retrieved… all techniques that work… but can be harder to walk than the spook.  

While the Skitterpop can be used for more subtle presentations, it and the Spook are reaction baits; and in the fall they just plain make the fish mad! Throw at a spot you feel confident there is a fish sitting on, then throw again. Vary your retrieve with soft, slow twitching motions to jerking the bait so hard your elbows and arms hurt at the end of the day. I use the same rod to fish the walking baits as the buzzbait, but I prefer a spinning rod setup to allow me to hold the rod in my right hand and reel with the left.  

Find what works for you. 

Unlike the buzzbait, you can’t make as many casts with these baits. I fish them over the same spots and cover, but you need to be selective when choosing the cast. Throw them farther past the target to be quieter, then walk it as close to the location as possible. If there is not an immediate strike, throw at the spot again, then pause the bait as it passes… then begin the retrieve again. This is often enough to draw an attack, and I mean attack. I have had bass come entirely out of the water, and crash down on the bait. If they miss it don’t pull it out of the zone, just twitch it a few times and pause, then continue the retrieve.  

I say that as if it is easy, but you will find yourself setting the hook in air and it will leave the strike zone, the water… and can come sailing toward you until you learn to feel the fish on the other end of the line.  

Kayak Bass Fishing Tennessee: Do NOT Forget About Follow-Up Baits

Keep a spinnerbait close to follow up, but another bait I keep rigged on a medium action (fast tip) St. Croix Mojo Bass rod with a Shimano Sahara reel when I am fishing a walking bait is a weightless Yamamoto Senko. I have stopped the retrieve after a missed hit, then dropped the rod, picked up the Senko and tossed it in like a dying bait fish. 

Dropping the initial rod has allowed me to catch more fish, and taught me another invaluable skill; how to fish rods out of the water (keep the rod placement – drop location – in mind).  

The beauty of kayak bass fishing Tennessee in the fall is that it can be anywhere from thirty to seventy degrees, often on the same day. The water has dropped to winter pool on the local waters, and the fish are getting less pressure in prime locations – even some kayakers will not make their way over the long shallow flats thinking it is futile. But if you tie on some topwater lures and make the effort, it can be very rewarding – even into the winter.


This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

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Mike Cheatham

ABOUT Mike

May 2016, sat in my first kayak. October 2016, skunked in my first tournament. Spring of 2017, placed 11th in the KBF Open and have chased the addiction since. Fishing is the one place my mind gets quiet, the place I have always found peace. To do it competitively with a great bunch of folks is just a bonus. To have an opportunity to combine my love for fishing with writing...I feel like I have finally found a place in this world! I do have the support of a wonderful woman who understands my need to be on the water; she supports my dreams fully....life is truly good.

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