Late Season Buzzbait Fishing | When Does The Water Get Too Cold?

In the south, we all too often bail on the topwater bite after waking up to frost on our vehicles for the first time. As anglers, we have a tendency to fish the air temperatures and not the water temperatures. In the spring, a warm sunny day will have us burning baits back to the boat when the water temps are in the ‘40s and the fish are still in a slow roll mood. In the early winter, our need for coveralls and toboggans will have us crawling baits through water that’s still in the mid-’50s, not considering buzzbait fishing.

The truth is, it takes several consecutive days of cold or warm air temps to really get the mercury moving in either direction relative to water temps. So you need to really focus on what the fish are feeling and not what you’re feeling. Bass will still bite a topwater bait when the water temperatures are in the mid-’50s. 

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I even caught a 6-pounder in a club tournament once on a Stanley Ribbit in 49-degree water.

Though I would not recommend pursuing a topwater bite when the water is that cold. I shouldn’t have been that day. But I had caught a 3- and 4-pounder the weekend prior during practice on the Ribbit. We had a massive cold front leading up to the tournament and the water temps plummeted from the mid-’50s to upper ‘40s. Still, nothing else was working for me the day of the tournament so, against my better judgment, I picked up the Ribbit and was pleasantly surprised.

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Late Season Buzzbait Fishing: Slow Roll or Bust

The point is, fish will still bite a topwater even when we don’t think they will. A buzzbait is one of the best topwater baits for this timeframe. To get bit buzzbait fishing in colder water, you’re going to want to really crawl the bait along. Hold your rod tip up a bit and fish the bait as slow as you can while still keeping it up on the surface. 

I’ve caught fish on both 1/4-ounce and 1/2-ounce buzzbaits this time of year. The 1/4-ounce buzzbait is a little easier to fish slow and better mimics shad if you’re around an abundance of bait. But if I’m not around a lot of bait, I prefer the slow, deep chug of a 1/2-ounce buzzbait in cold water.

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Late Season Buzzbait Fishing: Conditions to Look For

There seems to be some correlation to sunny days and catching fish on a buzzbait for me personally, but I honestly think that’s probably a false positive due to the tendency I mentioned earlier. I’m guilty as well of not even considering buzzbait fishing on a brutally cold winter day. 

There are also some sunny winter days where a buzzbait is pointless since the water temps have already plummeted deep into the ‘40s. However, 3 or 4 consecutive sunny days in a row can bring the water temps back up into the ‘50s as long as there aren’t disastrously low temps at night between those sunny days. 

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So on the tail end of a trend like that, be ready to break a buzzbait back out. 

Warm rains can also raise the water temps here in the south. And shallow water is the quickest to change temperature due to the multiple days of sunshine or rain. So if you find yourself in a situation where your body is telling you no but the temp on your graph is telling you yeah, just try it out. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised too.

How to Flip and Pitch Bushes in Cold, Muddy Water

Let’s dive in to how to flip and pitch bushes. This is something I haven’t done a lot, but when I do it, I’m apt to catch a big one. Flipping bushes is a dangerous game to play if you’re an emotionally unstable person. There’s a good chance throughout the course of a day that you’ll get hung up a couple of dozen times and, when the eventual big bite comes, about a 50/50 shot you’ll see her but never touch her. 

That’s when a person less in control of their emotions might string together a tapestry of obscenities that would make Ralphie’s dad from a Christmas Story blush. But that’s not me… no, I would never. 

The fact of the matter is, this style of fishing is grueling and tedious. You need to be accurate and thorough. Patient. But it is an effective way to get a big bite, especially in shallow, cold and muddy water.

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How to Flip and Pitch Bushes: What Conditions to Look For

Typically, given this set of conditions, I prefer to throw a square bill or spinnerbait. That’s because I like to keep a bait moving, even if it’s moving very slowly, both to help the fish track the bait from the constant vibration and to allow me to cover water a little quicker. However, these two baits are also better suited for horizontal cover: laydowns, seawalls, riprap, etc. 

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For more isolated targets like bushes and sometimes even stumps, I will slow down and pick them apart with either a jig or a soft plastic pitching setup. 

Overhanging bushes are hard to fish, especially in the wintertime, since the fish will often bury up in the middle of them and under them. Those fish are extremity lethargic in cold water and not typically willing to rush out and attack a passing spinnerbait or square bill. So you need to go in and dig them out.

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How to Flip and Pitch Bushes: The Similarities to Punching

That’s where you can draw a lot of parallels between this style of fishing and punching. The gear isn’t quite as heavy. Where I use 1&1/2-ounce tungsten, a 7’ 8” Fitzgerald Big Jig/Heavy Mat Flipping Rod and 65-pound test Sufix 832 braid to punch, I’ll go with a 7’ 6” Heavy Vursa rod, 50-pound Sufix 832 braid, and a 3/4-ounce bait. But the reel is the same with a Lew’s Super Duty and a lot of the basic principles apply to how you target fish. 

Sure, when I’m punching we’re talking about hyacinth, hydrilla, or some other matted vegetation. Obviously, with flipping bushes, there is rarely any of that. But you can still treat the bank like a line of vegetation and the particularly thicker bushes over a little deeper water like the mats. 

Those are the higher percentage areas and should get the majority of the focus. 

Similar to when you’re punching vegetation, you don’t want to dob the bait all around the edges first. That will just distract the fish or likely draw them away from the sweet spot. No, you want to go dead center right out of the gate. That’s the best way to surprise the fish and get a reaction strike. 

The same basic principle holds true when learning how to flip and pitch bushes. Try to put the bait right in the middle of the bush, or as best you can while still leaving a reasonably good exit strategy. Then I’ll yo-yo the bait a few times the same as when I’m punching. Only then will I toss the bait around a bit in some of the less probable places or perhaps even further back into the cover from time to time. 

When you get bit, be sure to keep pressure on the fish. It’s best not to hammer them on the hookset, the same as punching. This will give you a better chance to start the fish out of the cover before he even knows what’s happening. And it will prevent the braid from cutting down into the wood like it did here on this fish catch. 

How to Flip and Pitch Bushes: Using Fluorocarbon Instead of Braid

Another tip to prevent that, use heavy fluorocarbon instead of braid. This tip comes from Brandon Palaniuk and is advice that you should definitely consider. Again, I don’t fish this way often but I do know that a lot of anglers who regularly fish bushes prefer the heavier fluorocarbon to the braid for the fact that it doesn’t cut into the wood as bad. Often times these fisheries are also clearer than what I’m focusing on in this article, so the fluorocarbon is less visible too. 

I’m a braid guy. That doesn’t mean I’m right though. I’m just stubborn and that is what I’m most comfortable with. But as you can see from that video, braid and poor hookset technique nearly botched that fish catch for me. 

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But the proper technique is a lot easier to talk about than employ when a 5-pounder rocks your jig. 

Still, do as I say and not as I do. It’ll likely be better for you in the long run.

Ned Rig | The Finesse ‘Not So’ Secret Cleanup Hitter

The water all over the country is getting colder every day. Surprisingly, that has me looking forward to throwing something finesse again that I only fished a little last year late in the winter, the Ned rig.

The sports new cleanup hitter isn’t a secret anymore by any means, but the Ned rig is still deceptively effective. 

I had heard a lot about it, so last winter I put it to the test one day. How could this thing really be any more effective than a shaky head. I pondered as I rigged both baits up for a little head-to-head showdown.

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Ned Rig: Why It’s Effective

I rigged the baits up on identical setups: line, reel, and rod. I wanted to eliminate all the variables that might affect the bite. Then I set out on the lake and caught 12 or so small spotted bass on a shaky head in a couple of hours. But when I swapped over to the Ned rig, that number doubled, if not tripled in the same amount of time. A lot of the fish were small, but where I would pull up on a point and make two or three casts with a shaky head before I got a bite, I’d get three bites on the first three casts with the Ned rig.

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The reason this bait works so well… is still unknown to me. But hey, I’m not one of those guys that have to know how a microwave works, I just want my mac and cheese. And the Ned rig nukes my pasta well. 

Last season, I would do the same thing I saw most anglers do when rigging a Ned rig, cut a Senko in half and run the tail section up onto the jig head, leaving the hook exposed about halfway down the soft plastic. It’s a very nothing looking deal. But maybe that’s what the fish like about it. It’s very subtle and non-threatening. But then again, so is a shaky head. 

I’m interested to see this year if I can target bigger fish with the Ned rig. Fish that, for whatever reason, won’t bite anything else. I had fun last year catching a bunch of little ones on it a time or two, but as a tournament fisherman, I really want to take advantage of the baits uncommon effectiveness and dial in a pattern where the Ned rig unlocks a larger bite.

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Ned Rig: New Offerings and Options

Another thing that has me excited about the Ned rig is the new offering of baits that have been specifically designed for the setup and released to the market over the last year or so. One, in particular, the Ned Bomb from MISSILE Baits

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These little guys come in a lot of cool colors, several with tails that differ in color from the body.

Another great thing, the Ned Bombs are 10 for $3.99 and should stay on the hook better, which is a little easier to bear than cutting the head off a Senko that cost twice as much and the fish tossing it on the first fight. Though to be fair, Yamamoto does offer a Ned rig specific 3-inch bait now, but it’s still a bit pricier. 

Then for anyone who is particularly worried about burning through baits, there’s the Finesse TRD from Z-Man. Only $3.99 for eight, and they’re made with Z-Man’s ElaZtech Plastic which is super stretchy and won’t tear off the hook until you want to tear it off the hook— and sometimes not even then. But those are a little shorter than I like at 2.75 inches and the stretchy plastic can be a little difficult to get up over the bait keepers of some jig heads. They do make a Ned head specifically designed with this in mind, however. 

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So yeah, I’m a little excited about venturing deeper into the finesse world this winter. 

Surprising I’m sure for some of you familiar with my style of fishing. But the fact that I’m not a good finesse angler is kind of what has me fired up about it. I feel like the Ned rig is so effective, it can help boost my finesse confidence and help me locate a lot of fish that I can then try to target with some other finesse techniques to hone my skills this winter. That’s the game plan anyway, check back in later to see how it went!

Fall Bass Fishing | Shaye’s Fall Favorites – Scrounger Jig

A scrounger jig is an admittedly underutilized bait for me. This is one of the most effective finesse baits that can still be fished relatively quickly. In my recent article about soft-plastic jerkbaits, I mention how a Fluke is a fantastic follow-up bait to a lipless crankbait. Well, a scrounger is basically a marriage of the two. 

True, a scrounger obviously has no rattles. But the semi-hard plastic lip or a scrounger does generate a considerable amount of vibration and offers up a great middle-ground between the aggressive action of a lipless crankbait and the sometimes too finesse action of a Fluke. 

This is why a scrounger is perfect for semi-cold water and semi-stained situations, which are both very prevalent in the fall.

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Scrounger Jig: What Conditions to Look For

As the water starts to cool a little, it initially affects the behavior of the bait and the bass in a very positive way. Exhausted from the hot, stagnant summer conditions, the first cool snap that drops the water temperature is like a breath of fresh air to everything living beneath the surface. In a matter of hours it seems, shad magically appear in the backs of pockets and along the surface, moving at a very accelerated pace. 

And for a brief moment in time, it’s action-packed. You can catch them quick, fast, and in a hurry throwing a wide array of baits. But as that water temps continue to fall, you’ll notice a lot more boiling than busting from the bass. They won’t quite commit to a topwater bait and start feeding subsurface a lot more. 

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That’s when a scrounger can really shine.

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Scrounger Jig: Looking For a Change in the Water Color

Likewise, the water starts to get a little more color in the fall. For some areas, rain has been scarce for months. As we start to experience some of the first rains leading into the winter, the water color begins to change from the backs of creeks all the way to main lake pockets. And to this, the sediment stirred up in the water by the fall turnover and you’ll start to see a cloudy green tint in areas that were gin clear a few weeks prior. This too sets up well for the scrounger. 

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A scrounger like this was largely responsible for our day one lead and the eventual 3rd place finish my partner and I accomplished on Ft. Loudon in the 2010 FLW College Fishing National Championship during my time at Auburn University. 

For fall fishing, I prefer a smaller scrounger than those made popular in recent years by ledge fishing hammers like Jason Lambert. Where he pairs a massive 7” Jerky J with a 1-ounce scrounger head, I go with a 1/4-ounce head and an original 4-inch Fluke. The reasoning, he’s trying to mimic the size and action of a big gizzard shad in the summer, where I’m trying to imitate a much smaller, tighter threadfin shad in the fall and winter. It’s the basic equivalent to comparing a number 5 Shad Rap to a 10XD. 

The beauty of a scrounger is that it doesn’t require a lot of action. A slow, steady retrieve works best. If you do try to reel it fast, the bait has a tendency to roll. So, if you want to fish the bait closer to the surface, simply raise your rod tip a little. 

The bill on most scrounger style baits can rotate 360-degrees around the lead head. This is great for tweaking the bait until you get the desired action and can eliminate the bait’s tendency to roll as much as possible, but also frustrating in that any slight collision with the bill can knock the bait back out of line. So it’s good to add a touch of super glue around where the bill collars around the head once you do get the bait dialed in. 

Shaye’s Scrounger Jig Gear

Rod: Fitzgerald Vursa 7’ 0” Medium-Heavy 

Reel: Lew’s Speed Spool LFS 7.5:1

Line: Sufix Advance Fluoro 12-pound test 

Bait: Zoom Fluke

Scrounger Jig: Fish Head Dude 1/4 ounce

Fall Bass Fishing | Shaye’s Fall Favorites – Soft Plastic Jerkbait

One of the simplest rigs in all of bass fishing is also one of the most realistic and least intimidating; the soft plastic jerkbait. When it comes to fall fishing, realism and stealth are the name of the game. 

Though there are several baits that fall into this category, the bait that it’s most widely associated with is the Zoom Super Fluke. And though Zoom certainly refined the bait to near perfection, some would say the original soft plastic jerkbait title belongs to the Slug-Go, the presumed conceptual father of both the Fluke and the Senko.

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Soft Plastic Jerkbait: The Perfect Shad Imitation

Regardless, this style of bait rigged weightless on a 5/0 hook creates the perfect imitation of a struggling shad, with it’s side-to-side walking action and shimmying, slow fall. As the shad become ever more present along the surface and in the shallows, this is one bait that you don’t want to overlook. 

Whether it’s offshore over deep water or in the back of a pocket on a shallow flat, I like to have a soft plastic jerkbait rigged up anytime I’m fishing around schooling fish. The only limiting factors to when I’ll employ it are range and necessity. 

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If I’m able to get schoolers to bite a topwater or lipless crankbait, I prefer to start there as both are much easier to cast. 

However, a Fluke is to these two baits what a shaky head is to a deep-diving crankbait; the perfect cleanup bait. 

If I’m continuously seeing bass boil on bait in close proximity to the boat but they refuse to commit to a topwater or respond to a lipless crank, I’ll then move to the Fluke. 

Soft Plastic Jerkbait: How I Like to Fish It

There are two basic ways to work a bait like this, quick along the surface with a little side-to-side motion and spitting action or slow and low with a wider walking action and a brief pause between twitches of the rod tip to let the bait shimmy a little. 

There’s also a third technique that only seems necessary when the water has cooled significantly (below 40 degrees) and the shad are starting to die off and the bass have gorged themselves and become lethargic. During times like this, I can sometimes still pick up a few fish shallow by dead-sticking a Fluke. Let the bait fall all the way to the bottom and then twitch it periodically and let it lie there again for a few seconds. But if I’m forced to fish a Fluke this way, I usually just change to something else like a finesse crankbait, shaky head, or a jig.

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Soft Plastic Jerkbait: Rigging and Line Selection

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When rigging a Fluke, you want to be sure to leave a little bit of a bend in the back of the bait instead of making it perfectly straight. 

This will give the bait considerably more action. One difficulty that will occur when fishing a Fluke, which can sometimes be magnified by this bend in the back, is the very annoying line twist. 

After fishing a Fluke for about 30 minutes, you’ll start to notice your line developing loops and tangles when it goes slack. For this reason, most anglers throw a Fluke on braided line with a fluorocarbon leader. And most use a spinning rod. 

I do use a braid-to-fluoro setup, but I prefer a baitcaster. For those of you familiar with my strengths and weaknesses, I grew up on a baitcaster and didn’t begin to utilize spinning equipment until later in life. So I’m actually better and more comfortable fishing even light baits like this with a baitcaster. But for someone starting from scratch, the spinning setup would definitely be the best to acquaint yourself with as it will allow you to do more over time, like skip docks and make longer casts. 

Shaye’s Soft Plastic Jerkbait Gear:

Rod: Fitzgerald Vursa 7’ 0” Medium-Heavy

Reel: Lew’s Speed Spool LFS 7.5:1

Line: Sufix 832 Braid 30-pound test & Sufix Advance Fluoro 12-pound test 

Bait: Zoom Super Fluke

Fall Bass Fishing | Shaye’s Fall Favorites – Topwater Walking Baits

We return to the fall favorites series with a look at one of my all-time favorites, topwater walking baits. The fall is all about shad here in the south and across a lot of the country. In discussing my fall favorites I’ve touched on several shad imitators. You can check out some of my other fall bass fishing favorites by clicking these links:

  1. Lipless Crankbaits
  2. 1/4-ounce Buzzbaits
  3. Small Spinnerbaits
  4. Squarebill Crankbaits

All of those baits are great and essential to a full-blown fall arsenal. But I rarely use any of them to take advantage of one of the most exciting parts of the fall, fishing for schooling fish. 

As the water cools and bait moves close to the surface, bass begin to use the top of the water column to their advantage. Corralling the bait against the surface, the bass condense the strike zone and then bust through the bait when it has no more room to swim up.

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Topwater Walking Baits – Why These Bait Works So Well For Schooling Bass

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Fishing a walking style topwater like a Spook, Sammy or Gunfish around schoolers is a great way to generate ferocious strikes but it can also lead to some heartbreaking battles where the bass comes out the victor. 

To level the playing field a bit, I’ll typically upsize my treble hooks any time I’m fishing a topwater around schoolers to give myself the best chance I can at hooking them well. 

Often times you’ll have a fish boil on a bait or slash at it several times before finally hooking up. These larger hooks hang down farther in the water and have wider gaps increasing your chances ever so slightly at connecting with the bass. But it’s certainly enough of an increase to take advantage when you’re talking about 3-to-5-pound bass busting bait. Getting just one more of those fish into the boat in a day’s time can make all the difference. 

Perhaps the most frustrating part of fishing for schoolers is that they always seem to be just out of reach. 

In my younger years, I would chase them all over a vast area. As soon as I saw them break the surface a hundred yards away, I would kick my trolling motor up on high or even jump down and fire up my outboard and race to where they were, only to see them busting right where I had just been as soon as the boat stopped. 

Noise is extremely important, or the lack thereof, when targeting schoolers. I have found over time that I’m far better off waiting patiently in one spot for the fish to make their way back around. It seems like a much longer wait at the moment because the bass are busting, but it usually only takes a few minutes for the fish to chase the bait back in your direction if you remain still and quiet. 

Topwater Walking Baits – Increasing Your Range When Targeting Schools of Bass

There are also a few ways to help increase your range and draw the fish in a little closer a little quicker. For starters, braided line in place of monofilament is imperative. The braid not only increases your range but it also provides a better hook up ratio on long casts with a topwater than the far stretchier monofilament. Just be prepared to back off your drag as the fish nears the boat to help prevent it from tearing off. 

You also want to use a fairly light action rod like a 7’ 0” medium-heavy or even a medium action to help with this. A monster hookset isn’t necessary either with a topwater like this given its treble hooks. And since the fish will often miss the bait on the first few swipes, I typically try to just continue working the bait until I feel tension and the fish essentially hooks itself. Then I’ll pull back and start applying pressure throughout the fight. 

Now, I don’t buy into the Hydrowave in most settings. For instance, I don’t see any advantage to having a fish be drawn towards my trolling motor when I’m fishing a stump field in 2-feet of water. That’s counterproductive. But I have heard too many stories and seen a few instances myself that credit a Hydrowave’s effectiveness in offshore situations where bait is present. In these instances, I believe the artificial sounds of bait and fish busting on them can activate the actual bait and bass in an area.

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Topwater Walking Baits – Bait Selection

Now, let’s get back to talking about the topwater bait itself. As far as bait selection, I don’t really have a gold standard. I’ve fished with several different brands and sizes over the years. The Bowstick from Jackall is a very effective bait when looking for a big profile. A Sammy 85 by Lucky Craft is great when targeting finicky fish around small baitfish. 

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The Heddon Spook is perhaps the industry-standard given it’s been around a long time and is extremely effective at catching fish. 

I’ve found that schoolers, in particular, can be very picky so I try to let them decide which walking-style topwater bait I throw. I keep several options on hand and if I have a couple fish blow up on a bait and not get it, I’ll change to one with a different size, color, or sound. 

But topwater walking baits aren’t limited to schoolers alone in the fall. I’ll often throw a topwater around riprap, seawalls, treetops, and docks in the fall. This time of year, bait is plentiful and everywhere. So you can often catch fish anywhere. And the appearance of a wounded baitfish that is given off by walking topwater baits is a great way to draw strikes from these fish. That’s what makes a walking style topwater one of my fall favorites. 

Shaye’s Fall Topwater Walking Baits Gear

Rod: Vursa 7’ 0” Medium-Heavy 

Reel: Lew’s LFS Speed Spool 7.5:1

Line: 30-pound Sufix 832 Braid

Baits: Spook, Sammy, Gunfish, Sexy Dawg

Fall Kayak Fishing | Top 5 Fall Kayak Fishing Baits

By the time fall hits, the tournament season has pretty much come to a close which means it’s time for fall fun fishing. I always get excited about this time of year because it allows me to experiment with new baits without the pressure of having to catch a limit. Of course, I have my go-to baits for the fall, but there’s usually a wildcard of some sort tied on. So, here are my top 5 baits for fall kayak fishing.

Fall Kayak Fishing Baits #1: Chatterbait

This one shouldn’t be much of a surprise, the chatterbait is one of my top baits just about year-round but when the bass start feeding in the fall, this bait my favorite. When bass are actively feeding, the “search bait” nature of a chatterbait allows you to cover a lot of water and bring your lure by as many bass as possible. When bass are actively feeding, you can find yourself on schools of bass, landing a fish every cast. 

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There’s just something about chatterbaits that actively feeding fish just can’t resist.

I used to think that because of conditions getting colder, I’d have to slow down how I fish this bait but the more I fish in the fall the more I see the opposite. Of course, when we start getting closer to freezing conditions, the bass will eventually slow down but in the early weeks of fall, the fish get really active and aggressive. I’ve had some fall days where I’ll burn a chatterbait through weeds or even in deeper water and the strikes are extremely aggressive. Throw a chatterbait this fall, you won’t regret it.

Fall Kayak Fishing Baits #2: Senko

I mean, I really can’t think of a time when a senko isn’t on my kayak and ready to be thrown. Senkos are hated by some and loved by many, myself included. Love them or hate them, senkos work year-round. 

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In the early spring and fall, things can slow down a bit and there have been plenty of instances where casting a senko and just letting it sit has been the most effective presentation. 

I’m not sure that I’m a believer that the color of a senko makes much of a difference but that being said, I’m a big fan of green pumpkin. 

Fall Kayak Fishing Baits #3: Spook

When I think about fishing in the fall, my mind almost always goes straight to thinking about colder weather. Eventually, this happens in fall but in the early days of the season, the cold hasn’t quite taken over and the water temps will remain warmer despite the air temperatures dropping at night. 

Here in the Northeast, the cold air comes in quick so it can be easy to want to throw something more subtle. The reality is, the early fall is my favorite time to throw topwater, specifically a spook. There’s something about fishing spook that is not only fun but also really satisfying when you catch a monster on it. 

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Walking a spook creates one of my favorite sounds and when that’s disrupted by a bass attacking it, things just don’t get much better than that.

Fall Kayak Fishing Baits #4: Dropshot

When the cold of fall sets in, bass can start retreating towards deeper water. Here in the Northeast, our smallmouth will start to school up in certain spots. This is where a dropshot will excel. Once you hit a school of these fish, it’s game on, cast after cast of smallmouth bass

When fall hits, I tend to change my dropshot bait up a bit. My go-to dropshot bait is the Z-drop by Zoom. I’ve had the most luck with this bait and it’s pretty much all I use when throwing a dropshot, the only thing I’ll change is the color. During the warmer months, I’ll use a green pumpkin color. 

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In the fall, I change this color to the purple smoke color. 

This color is more transparent and subtle. In my experience, it can get a bass to bite in tough conditions.

Fall Kayak Fishing Baits #5: Spinnerbait

It feels a bit like cheating to include spinnerbaits on a list that already has chatterbaits, but there are many instances when there’s just no substitute for the flash of a Colorado blade. The reality is, chatterbaits require a certain amount of speed for the lure to work effectively. Spinnerbaits can be retrieved slower, go deeper, and create more flash in the water than chatterbaits. You can learn more about chatterbaits vs spinnerbaits here

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When it comes to throwing spinnerbaits, I keep it simple, typically throwing a white spinnerbait with varying blade types and colors. 

Every so often, I’ll use a white with some chartreuse in murky water. Spinnerbaits are one of those great versatile lures that even on the toughest days will eventually catch fish.

Fall Bass Fishing | Shaye’s Fall Favorites – Squarebill Crankbait

We return to the fall favorites series with a look at one of the all-time greats, a squarebill crankbait. You can check out some of my other fall bass fishing favorites by clicking these links:

  1. Lipless Crankbaits
  2. 1/4-ounce Buzzbaits
  3. Small Spinnerbaits

A squarebill in the fall is critical to my arsenal because it provides me with an all-terrain shad-imitator to accompany my open water lipless crankbait. As good as a Rat-L-Trap is, you don’t want to try to bring it through a treetop.

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However, a good squarebill crankbait can bump and crawl its way through darn near anything.

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Squarebill Crankbait – Why I Love the Bandit 100

The Bandit 100 is a staple in mine and my father’s boats. I’ve thrown a lot of different squarebills over the years and had good luck with several of them. During that time, my dad has stayed true to the Bandit and I have often found myself coming back to it time and time again, especially in the fall and winter. 

There are two reasons I believe that is the case. Firstly, the bait just flat out gets bit. Some baits are like that. Whether its the color scheme or the action or the sound, I’m not sure. But there’s something about a Bandit 100 that just seems to draw a few more bites than other squarebills. 

The second reason, in the right hands, the bait is virtually weedless. Now weedless may not be the best word here because I’m not saying you can reel it through hydrilla and not snag any grass. I’m referring to the baits’ ability to worm its way through heavy cover: laydowns, brush piles, rocks, stump fields, etc. 

Unlike the intangible trait that makes the Bandit so effective at getting bit, I believe there are certain characteristics of the bill design that make the bait more effective at traversing heavy cover. The bill has rounded corners and a slightly flatter angle than a lot of other popular square bills. I believe these two characteristics allow the bait to deflect off cover without rolling as much as other squarebills.

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Squarebill Crankbait – Understanding How the Bait Works

When making contact with an obstruction head-on, the lip of a squarebill will usually be the first thing to hit the object and as it dips down, the rear of the bait and the hooks pivot up. This is why if you keep steady pressure on the bait it will usually climb over the obstruction. Or if you pause the bait it will float over the cover. What you never want to do is snatch as soon as you feel something. That’s when you will get hung more often than not. 

Squarebill Crankbait(2)

When you bump cover with any squarebill, a slow steady pull will typically bring the bait over it. 

And if it’s a bass, that same slow steady pull will easily hook the fish given the bait has treble hooks which require little force in setting. Another important thing to be effective at this is not overpowering your rod selection. You need a rod with a soft tip so that you don’t hook the cover as soon as you feel it like you would with a heavy action rod. I recommend a 7’ 0” medium-heavy for this with 14-pound to 17-pound fluorocarbon depending on the cover and a reel with a good drag system

All of that is to say this however, the area where a Bandit 100 stands out is when it hits a second piece of cover immediately after making contact with the first. A lot of squarebills will veer erratically after making contact or begin to roll. Say your bait bumps a limb on a laydown followed immediately by a consecutive limb, that’s when a lot of squarebills will hang up. But a Bandit has more of a crawling action after making that initial contact and stays nose down, hooks up which is much better when it meets that second, third, and fourth piece of cover. 

This is extremely important in the fall and winter. Fish hang tight to cover in the winter, so the need for a bait to crawl slowly through that strike zone is evident. But in the fall, I’ll often find a vast area like a flat in the back of a creek that is loaded with shad and sparsely sprinkled with cover. 

While I’ll catch several fish that are chasing bait on the flat, a lot of the bigger ones will come from the few pieces of cover. These bass are the dominant ones and they stake their claim around the few pick-off points available. If you lob a squarebill crankbait in and hang up on 4 out of the 5 pieces of cover present, you’re greatly reducing your chances of getting bit. Therefore, having a squarebill that can effectively cover the roughest terrain in the fall is critical. That’s why the Bandit 100 is one of my fall favorites. 

Shaye’s Squarebill Crankbait Gear for the Fall

Bait: Bandit 100

Rod: Vursa 7’ 0” Medium-Heavy

Reel: Lew’s LFS Speed Spool 7.5:1

Line: Sufix Advance Fluoro 14-pound to 17-pound test

Fall Bass Fishing | Shaye’s Fall Favorites – Small Spinnerbait

For the third installment of this series discussing my favorite fall bass fishing baits, we’re going to be talking about the small spinnerbait. You can check out the first two baits by clicking these links: 

  1. Lipless Crankbaits
  2. 1/4-ounce Buzzbaits

When I say small spinnerbaits, I’m referring to the overall profile, not necessarily the weight. These are finesse spinnerbaits, spinnerbaits with a short arm and smaller blades than your typical spinnerbait. Like most of my fall favorites, I like these baits because they do a good job of matching the hatch.

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Small Spinnerbait | Size Does Matter

The reason I bring up the size of the bait’s profile and not the weight of the bait is that there are actually some finesse spinnerbaits now, like those made by Davis’s Baits, that have more of the weight along the shaft of the hook instead of just in the head. So you can still have a smaller profile spinnerbait but keep the added weight for casting. These spinnerbaits work well when fall bass fishing, especially in windy situations because they’re easier to throw than traditional finesse spinnerbaits that are lighter. 

Small Spinnerbait(1)

But weight is important. 

Part of the appeal of a small spinnerbait is that it can be reeled slowly through the water column. Obviously the heavier the bait, the faster you’ll have to reel it. So a true finesse spinnerbait for me is around a 1/4-ounce. 

Small Spinnerbait | Colors and Water Clarity

Nichols Lures makes a great finesse spinnerbait in their Nichols 33 Mini Double Willow Spinnerbait. As far as color schemes and blade combinations go, there’s a lot to choose from and as usual, the water clarity determines a lot of that for me. But in the fall, the water is usually clear to slightly stained, often with a green tint to it. 

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For most conditions, the Bombshell Bass color scheme with one gold and one silver willow leaf is very good. 

If the water does get muddy, I’ll typically just move away from a small spinnerbait and go to a bigger one. If the water is particularly clear I’ll use something more like the Blue Shad Pepper color scheme with double silver willow leaf blades.

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Small Spinnerbait | Gear and Location

This is another bait that works well on a 7’0” medium-heavy rod with around a 7:1 gear ratio reel. I’ll either use 15-pound fluorocarbon or even step up to 30-pound braid if I’m fishing around a lot of heavy cover and the water clarity will allow it. The braid is necessary at times. Even though you’re fishing with a smaller bait, it has a fairly strong hook and you still need to fish through some pretty gnarly cover. 

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As far as what to target, the same old same old holds true. 

Grass, wood, rock, open water, you can catch bass anywhere with a small spinnerbait in the fall as long as there is bait present. Creeks and pockets are the best places to start looking for the shad but they’ll often be on the bluff walls and points right outside if they haven’t quite pushed back into these places.

Fall Bass Fishing | Shaye’s Fall Favorites – ¼ Ounce Buzzbait

In a previous article, I talked about one of favorite fall bass fishing baits, a lipless crankbait. Well, another favorite of mine this time of year is a ¼ ounce buzzbait. It’s a bait that I rarely throw any other time of the year but has a way of bringing a big one to the boat once the fall rolls around. 

As I mentioned before, my dad and I have traveled to Lake Wheeler in north Alabama with our club in October each year for decades. It’s always our first taste of cold weather, the first time we see the leaves begin to change colors and the first shot we get at fall fishing. 

¼ Ounce Buzzbait(1)

The shad flood the shores and spill over into the backs of creeks and pockets, bass are aggressively right on their tails ready to feast. And we eagerly set out to interrupt the smorgasbord. 

As previously discussed, one of the best baits for catching lots of these bass is a lipless crankbait. But one of the best baits for catching the biggest fish in the bunch is a ¼ ounce buzzbait. 

In the fall, I can catch 5 fish on a ¼ ounce buzzbait to everyone I can catch with 1/2-ounce buzzbait. I believe this all comes back again to the overabundance of bait, matching the hatch and the fact that a big loud bait just isn’t necessary.

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¼ Ounce Buzzbait: Why Not a Big Loud Bait?

Too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing. Because there is so much bait present in the fall, sometimes you have to work even harder to get a bite, especially from an older, battle-weary bass. But you want to still present something to it that’s fairly close in size to what he’s already grown so familiar to and you don’t want to throw something that so obviously different that he just turns his nose up at it. 

¼ Ounce Buzzbait(2)

All this is why I believe a ¼ ounce buzzbait is so effective. 

You’re presenting something very similar in size to what the bass are eating but you’re doing so on the surface, giving off the appearance that the bait is struggling or fleeing from another predator.

Now, all of this is taking into consideration that I’m trying to break down the physiology of a bass. But who’s to say its right or wrong? No one really knows what goes on in a bass’s head. All I know is what I’ve seen. And I’ve seen my dad or myself win several of those club tournaments on Wheeler in the fall thanks to one 5-pound bite on a ¼ ounce buzzbait.

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¼ Ounce Buzzbait: What to Target?

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Wood, rock, and grass are all great structures when throwing a buzzbait in the fall, but the main thing you have to have is bait. 

I’ve fished miles of some of the best-looking water on the lake in the fall without bait and without a bite. And I’ve caught fish with a buzzbait in the middle of a barren shallow flat that was loaded with bait. Bait is key. But bait around any kind of structure is the best to target.