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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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

The fall is almost here. Cool days and cold nights are right around the corner and with that a reawakening of the shallow waters that have been boiling here in the south these last few months. As the water temperatures drop, the shad will rise to the surface and make their way back into the creeks and pockets all along our southern waterways. One of the best fall bass fishing baits for targeting fish around all this bait… the lipless crankbait. 

For me personally, a ¼-ounce lipless crankbait is pretty hard to beat when the shad flood the shallows. Both the gold standard Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap and the new age workhorse, the Stike King Red Eye Shad, have put hundreds of pounds of bass in mine and my dad’s boat this time of year. One of the fisheries we use these baits the most is Wheeler Lake on the Tennessee River. 

Each year since 1974, our bass club, the Kowaliga Bassmasters, has made the pilgrimage to Wheeler in October for our first taste of fall. That’s probably the lake where I first threw a Rat-L-Trap and certainly the one where I’ve thrown one the most in the fall. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of shad flood the shallows there each year followed by swarms of aggressive bass feeling good from the cooling waters and looking to bulk up for the winter ahead. 

There are variations of the lipless crankbait and techniques with it that I have learned work the best in the fall through fishing Wheeler over the years, a lot of which will translate to other fisheries across the southern states and beyond. Let’s dive into some of those now.

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Lipless Crankbait: Yo-Yoing

When the shad first start to move back into the creeks and pockets, I’ll often encounter them on bluff walls or in the middle of pockets where the water is still 10 to 15-feet deep. Yo-Yoing a lipless crankbait works really well in these situations. 

Basically you just want to cast your bait out past the ball of shad and let it sink down below them. Then rip the bait up into the ball of shad and let it sink again. This mimics a struggling shad and is exactly what the bass sitting beneath the ball of bait are looking for. 

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I’ll typically use a 1/2-ounce lipless crankbait here. You can use a 1/4-ounce but it’s rarely necessary. 

Lipless Crankbait: Busting Shallow Bait

As the bass push the bait shallower and shallower, they start to bust them or school on them. That’s when you just want to throw your lipless crankbait past where they’re busting and bring the bait through with a nice steady retrieve. Typically this is happening on a hump, flat or in the back of a pocket so the water is only 1 to 3 feet deep. Because of this, you’ll often need to hold your rod tip up while you reel your bait in and you want to be able to pause the bait or jerk it to give it more action. 

However, if you’re doing this across a flat with a pretty good drop on the side, definitely pause your retrieve or ‘kill the bait’ as you reach the deeper water and you’ll often draw a strike there.

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Lipless Crankbait: 1/4-Ounce vs 1/2-Ounce

Depending on how shallow you are fishing, a 1/4-ounce lipless crankbait can be much easier to work and more effective than a 1/2-ounce. In addition, there are times when fish will just react better to one or the other so it’s a good idea to have both rigged up. 

Sometimes in the fall, matching the hatch is important, so you want to use a 1/4-ounce of 1/2-ounce based on the size of the bait present. 

However I’ve also experienced the opposite where there is so much bait present that using a bait that differs slightly in size from the surrounding forage is more effective. Don’t be afraid to try different things if you’re not getting bit. Likewise with color, though typically you want to match the hatch there. 

Lipless Crankbait: Lipless with a Blade

Bill Lewis made a 1/4-ounce Rat-L-Trap with a willow leaf blade where the back hook would typically be and I’ve had a lot of luck with this bait in the fall. It’s not really a bait I fish at all the rest of the year, but when there’s an overabundance of shad I have found that the added flash of the little willow leaf seems to stand out in the crowd well enough to draw a few more strikes. 

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I believe this bait may have been discontinued but is easy to duplicate by simply replacing the back treble with a swivel and small willow leaf blade. 

Lipless Crankbait Gear

For fishing a lipless crankbait, I prefer a Vursa 7’0” medium heavy paired Lew’s LFS Speed Spool in 7.5:1 and 15-pound fluorocarbon. I might step down to 12-pound test when Yo-Yoing the bait if the fish are a little deeper, but 15-pound is definitely what I go with 95% of the time.

Lake Berryessa Fishing with a Spoon in the Fall

During the fall and into the winter, bass tend to school up and roam expansive flats as the shad and other baitfish are in the same areas. Finding these schools is much easier said than done. So, I set out on Lake Berryessa fishing with a spoon in the fall to try to give some insight into a great way to locate these roaming schools.

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Lake Berryessa Fishing: Locating the Bass

It can be a tedious task locating fish but when you find them, it’s usually lights out for five minutes to an hour, sometimes even longer.

What are you looking for?

Basically, I started off running the boat at 10-15 miles per hour looking for schools of bass by watching my Garmin 7610 depth finder practically the entire time. I spent my time trying to find big flat areas, then, I would move from the shallow flat in 15-foot out to about 50-foot looking for spaghetti.

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By spaghetti I mean your depth finder screen looks like a bowl of noodles.

Once I located the school of bass, I would stop the boat, lower the trolling motor and watch the front finder make sure the fish were still there. If you’re practicing for a tournament, you may just want to drive around and mark schools to revisit later.

Once you find them at a certain depth, they will be at the depth for a while, so if you lose the school, go back to search mode, shallow to deep.  There are times when the fish will stack up on points, cuts or creek channels too so if you spent a few hours searching the flats with no luck it doesn’t hurt to expand and check new areas.

Note: Sometimes I will drop the Aqua-Vu underwater camera down to verify the fish species and quantity. These schools can be massive covering 50 yards or they may only be a few yards long.

With the trolling motor down, I made sure I was still on top of the school. Then, I’d drop the spoon down. If the bass are active, the spoon may not make it to the bottom. I’ve found the fish bite better when there’s not a big school of bait mixed in. Though the bait is almost always close by, when the bait is mixed in the fishing is a little tougher.

A funny thing I’ve found is when you find these fish stacked up, you’d think a drop shot, Ned rig, Shaky head would be a good choice, but that’s not always the case. I won a tournament on Lake Berryessa years ago before I knew much about spoon fishing, we found these pods of bass but couldn’t catch them, but when we found a single fish, we’d lower a worm down and bam!

If only I knew about spoons back then.

Lake Berryessa Fishing: Working the Spoon

It starts with the right equipment, The right depth finder makes a huge difference, I’m using a Garmin 7610, 10” unit with ‘CHIP’ that really helps me separate the targets aka. the bass. When throwing a spoon, I like a fairly heavy rod like the Okuma TCS 7.3 heavy with an Okuma Helios reel spooled with 15 to 20-pound monofilament.

The line size doesn’t really seem to matter here, so make sure the line is heavy enough to free your spoon from most snags but still limber enough to fall naturally. After the main 15 to 20-pound mono line, I typically go with a 14 to 16-pound fluorocarbon leader with a snap for the spoon and a swivel to attach to the main line. Fluorocarbon is little stiffer and it seems to foul the spoon on to the line less often, the snap protects the line and makes it easy to swap out spoons, lastly, the swivel helps with line twist.

This rod and reel set up works well for a multitude of presentations like chatterbaits, football jigs, 6” Senkos, frog fishing, and heavy spinnerbaits.

Getting the action right is actually pretty easy, with the Hopkins and the Revenge spoons, I’ll let the spoon fall while controlling the line as it goes out, I want it to sink pretty fast but not quite free spooled. While controlling the line, you can feel if you get bit on the way down. Once the bait hits the bottom, snap your rod upwards 1 to 3-feet varying the upward distance and the speed in which you jerk upward.

This is similar to the retrieve on other lures where you experiment letting the fish tell you how they want it. Sometimes it takes big hard jerks off the bottom letting the bait fall on a slack line and there are times when you just flop the spoon over while it’s on the bottom, moving your rod only a few inches at a time.

The River2sea spoon is different, it’s a flutter spoon where the spoon glides back and forth on the fall. When I’m fishing this one, I’ll cast it out 30 to 40-feet letting it fall to the bottom then give it a good jerk upward letting it fall back to the bottom until I get under the boat. Then, I’ll jerk it up and down a couple times, reel it in and cast again. The River2sea flutter spoon has a bigger profile where most of the fish that bite are better quality.

Lake Berryessa Fishing with a Spoon in the Fall(2)

Also, the River2Sea spoon has a stinger hook where you can occasionally catch two bass at the same time.

Lake Berryessa Fishing: Conclusion

Spoon fishing is pretty simple, find the fish, drop the spoon and set the hook. The biggest problem I see is, anglers will lose patience when stopping to fish when they see only one or two fish. Sure they may catch a few but if you wait and find the big schools, you can hammer 20 to 30 or even 100 quality fish in a day.

Fishing is an ever-changing game – experiment and let the fish tell you what they want. Use the ANGLR app it will help you for years to come.

Mark’s Spooning Equipment

River2Sea Spoon River2sea James Watson Spoon – Chrome: https://bit.ly/2Ql7XC7

Hopkins Spoon ¾ and 1oz Chrome Shorty: https://bit.ly/2Kw4gUM

Revenge Spoon ¾ and 2oz – Silverside: https://bit.ly/2r6dyy4

Okuma TCS 7.3 heavy rod: https://bit.ly/2rakZEu

Okuma 7:3.1 Helios reel https://bit.ly/2r7YJLf

Sunline Natural Monofilament: https://bit.ly/2r6IKNo

Sunline FC Sniper Fluorocarbon: https://bit.ly/2TPmq8l

P-Line Cross lock Snap #2: https://bit.ly/2BCOox1

P-Line Ball Bearing Swivel 2: https://bit.ly/2DNKAuj

Depth finder Garmin 7610: https://bit.ly/2DPtk89

Aqua-Vu Underwater Camera: https://bit.ly/2AvUrBC

Cold Water Bass Fishing – Learning a Whole New Way to Catch Bass

If we’re not looking forward, we’re left behind.

As anglers, we’re always looking to improve upon ourselves, whether that be a new technique learning knew ways to find a pattern, or the art of learning how to play the drag when you’re fighting a giant. Sometimes, when we’ve all-but mastered one of those challenges, we feel the need to change things up a bit. We might switch things around and go after a completely different species altogether, just for the thrill of heading into new territory.

If you’re like ANGLR Expert, Taurus Lopez, you may elect to chase your favorite catch out into unfamiliar seasons. As he found out, cold water bass fishing is a whole different ball game from warm water angling. This guy’s been tournament fishing for over 15 years . . . . in warmer climates. He decided to set out this year and try something different! We convinced him to tell us all about his experience.


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Meet Taurus Lopez

I’ve been fishing for as long as I could remember, I’ve always been fishing for anything that would bite a hook. I didn’t really get serious about it until I matured a little bit more and had a really good job that offered me a lot of free time. I had a void to fill and needed to keep myself out of trouble, so I started to get competitive with my fishing habit!

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Now, I’m absolutely obsessed with bass fishing. I love the challenge of it. It gets addicting trying to home in on a pattern. I got into tournament fishing in local club tournaments around 2003. My friend and I heard about a local club, so we decided to sign up and see what happened. Next thing I knew, I was buying a bass boat, we were fishing tournaments and getting our rear ends handed to us.

That really made me want to fish harder, learn more, and educate myself. That really competitive aspect of tournament fishing just pulled me in.

I just started fishing open tournaments after my regular club season was over in October. I’m normally a summertime, shallow-water bass angler, but I decided to take myself a little bit out of my realm. This year, I wanted to see what happened and challenge myself. I began fishing in deeper waters to become a more versatile angler. I entered a couple of open tournaments in October, and caught some solid fish. After seeing the quality that I could catch in the fall, I became curious about the winter bite and began fishing even deeper and slower as the colder weather blew in.

What Makes Cold Water Bass Fishing Different

It’s been a learning lesson for me, that’s how I’m taking it. When you fish cold water, the bass are deeper, than where they position to feed in the summertime. They do go deep in the summer, but they’re more active when they pull into the shallows to feed. That’s what created my love for the shallow summertime bite.

In the fall months, the fish tend to start feeding up and getting ready for the winter. They start heading deeper towards the more climate-controlled water. The water temperature is around 40℉, whereas in the summer, it’s 80°F.

I’d best describe myself as a power-fisherman. You could usually catch me beating the banks, flipping and pitching. This year, I switched it up in a few open tournaments that I wanted to fish in October. I started doing a lot of pre-fishing early in the month and got in a lot of good practice. I was really catching a lot of fish and loving the different techniques!

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In October, the water temperature was right around 60°F. Every week, the temperature would drop down at least 5°F to 10°F, depending on where I was on the water. At that point, I was really catching the fish in about 16 foot of water and the fish were still more aggressive. Because of that, I was able to throw a crankbait, the Berkeley Dredger, so I could still do a little more power-fishing while constantly searching for fish.

It just so happened that my first day out in October, the fish were literally jumping on the bait. That got me curious. I was so stoked to be catching a lot of fish, and big fish in October. In all the time I’ve been fishing, I’ve never tried it. So, then I was really gung ho to continue to fish until the ice.



Bass Angler Magazine – Your Seasonal Guide To Better Bass Fishing


I’m really just trying to learn the deeper water, as I think it’s a harder technique for me. Everyone has their specialties: shallow water, deep water, finessing, power-fishing or some variation of the above. In the colder water, finding the fish was a little more difficult, so you have to learn to use your electronics to target and find the fish.

In the summer, they’re usually on the banks, so you could just throw almost anywhere around cover or structure in the hopes of catching the fish. In October, that was the case in the beginning, then they started to move out to that 16’ of water. In colder weather they’re more scattered. They’re schooled up, but they have a wider variety of water they could be found in.

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I have my regular fish finder, a Humminbird and have started using the ANGLR app paired with the Bullseye to search the maps to find deep water structure. When I locate fish, I log my catches and set my waypoints.  It’s working out very well. I’m able to keep the records of my outings and compare my trips to learn how the fish act in different conditions.

Sometimes, You Gotta Change Your Technique

Now that it’s November, I’m catching them in 20 to 30 foot and sometimes even 40 foot of water. In six feet, it’s much easier to get your line down there. At 40 foot, it’s more difficult and requires more patience. I started using heavier weights, but it really comes down to making myself have the patience to let my bait take the time to get down there.

As a power-fisherman, that can be difficult for me. I count down, waiting for the bait to hit the bottom. In six feet of water, I only count down to three before I start working it back. In 20 to 30 foot, I count the bait down 20 to 40 seconds. I’m still looking to improve on that, but I began using a heavier bait or jig head to get it down there a little faster.

With a 40° water temperature, they’re hugging the bottom, so you really have to use your electronics and focus on fishing vertically; jigging up and down. With a cold water bite, you really have to finesse things: get the right weight, figuring out how are they biting, learning how fast do they want it moving and if they are biting it on the fall.

Now, as the ice is beginning to set in on some pockets of the lakes I’m fishing,  I’m targeting bass on humps and points or ones that are staging on deep water structure. Every week it seems like the fish got deeper and deeper and harder to catch. I slowed down my presentation to almost dragging the bottom with just a slight snap of the rod every so often. I’m almost not even feeling the bite anymore; it’s just a subtle tic.

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Cold Water Bass Fishing: Change Your Gear Up

With barely being able to feel the bite, having the right gear really comes into play. I’m throwing a 6 to 8 pound test fluorocarbon leader tied to braid to help me get the bait down faster. The rods and reels I reach for are Diawa and Abu Garcia. I’ve also started using more of a finesse techniques as the colder weather droned on, along with using smaller baits. Black seems to be the color for me. I’m also throwing hair jigs (Outkast Seth Feider), small grubs (Yamamoto Twin Tail Hula Grubs), swim jigs (6th Sense Divine), small swimbaits (Keitech Swing Impact), spoons (Johnsons), and drop Shots (Yum Warning Shot).

Sometimes I throw a ⅜ to ½ ounce weight to get it down faster. Other times I’ve had to downsize my weight. Using the drop shots, I’d use a six inch leader to keep the bait not very far off the bottom.

Since the fish are really hugging the floor, you don’t want your bait higher up in the water column like you do in the summertime. They’re so close to the bottom right now that you can barely pick them up on the graph.

With the cold water pushing plenty of anglers off the water and onto the couch, don’t miss out on the opportunity to have the lake to yourself! Cold water bass fishing can be an absolute blast as long as you’re willing to slow down and learn from the fish! Expand on the knowledge you already know about bass fishing, and try a new technique, or like me, an entirely new season for bass fishing.