The Joys of Fall Bass Fishing
A bass pro shares there’s more to the season than college footballBy Mike Zlotnicki
For many people, this is a special time of the year. The start of a new school year, college football, cooler temperatures and fall hunting are but a few of the reasons to welcome the season.
For Jeffrey Thomas of Broadway, a professional bass angler and guide (carolinaoutdoors.net), the fall means some of the finest bass fishing of the year.
'As soon as the water temps drop to about 60 or so, the shad start heading for the creeks, and the bass follow,” Thomas says. “There’s no firm date for that each year. An Indian summer can take keep high temps up into October. Temps in the 64 to 55 range are perfect. The key to finding bass is finding shad.”
Early each fall, Thomas, who usually fishes with his terrier mix Tilly by his side on the casting deck of his Ranger bass boat, will start at the mouth of a given creek and work his way back until he finds the baitfish— usually gizzard shad or threadfin shad in North Carolina reservoirs. The bass will be close by.
At one point the shad will be in the very back of the creeks, before heading back out to winter in the main lake water sometime in November. (It’s not unusual to have mass shad kills in the frigid winter waters of some reservoirs.) The main lures to employ during this time are shad imitators, but one that Thomas uses to great success is a large Texas-rigged plastic worm.
“I like a big worm in the fall,” he says. “It’s versatile. If the bass are in the mouths of creeks I can fish it deep, or I can flip it shallow if that’s where they are.”
Thomas’ favorite offering is Catch Outdoors’ “BITE! Big 10-inch Diablo” worm, Texas rigged with a 4/0 Trokar offset worm hook and a half-ounce bullet weight. A half-ounce weight gets to the bottom quick enough but is still light enough to flip shallow cover, Thomas explains. When the fish are thick in the backs of creeks, he relies on two main lures.
“In the back creeks, I’m heavy on the buzzbait and the spinnerbait,” he says. “These are shad imitators. I target rock and blowdowns. You’ll also have more color [muddy water] in the backs. I will also use lipless crankbait and fan-cast early and switch to a spinnerbait later. The bass are there to feed up for the winter.
Thomas’ favorite spinnerbait is a Lunker Lure “Hawg Caller Double Willow” model in the half-ounce size. Black-and-chartreuse is good color combination, especially if the water is stained. His buzzbait preference is a half-ounce Rush Lures “D.R. Series” model.
“It’s got a long shank so you don’t need to use a trailer hook on it,” Thomas explains. “It also has a Trokar hook.
Thomas has other reasons to enjoy fall bass fishing in addition to catching bass. The recreational boat traffic is pretty much gone, so he doesn’t have to compete with ski boats and personal watercraft on the lake. Fewer fishermen also means less pressure on the fish, hence less “spooky” fish.
The timing of this seasonal fishery coincides with the white-tailed deer season, especially in the eastern part of the state. For Thomas, it’s not unusual to fish a creek, look up on a hillside and spot the blaze orange of a deer hunter in a tree stand.
“You can count on the shad migration in the fall like you can count on the deer rut in the fall,” he says.
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