Sunday, November 18, 2012

Experience+Luck=Good Fall Bassin'

My wife loves those crisp cool sunny fall days, but bass anglers either love 'em or hate 'em.  Why? Bass anglers love those days when the feeding bell seems to ring all day long as bass binge on any active bait that they can find, or hate those same kind of fall weather days where cold front bluebird skies can cause bass to hunker down and not bite, appearing to have lock jaw.
Windy sunny days with bluebird skies can be hot or tough, who knows why or when.  Either way, they make for beautiful scenic photographs.
Yesterday, my buddy Howard and I hit one of our favorite small lakes in search of a mixed bag of bass, chain pickerel and crappie.  My buddy Bob, who I purchased my boat from, wanted to tag along with his boat, and bring a special guest, his eight year old Son, Carson.  Howard and I have a history of hitting lakes like this in the fall, and every year we seem to learn something new.
Bob and Carson fishing out of Bob's new dream boat, the Riverpro LoPro.
Experience... One of the elements in my equation titling this post.  Last year we hit this spot and had a really tough day most of the day.  We had an early morning start and by noon, not even a bite, fishing for bass or pickerel.  We hit all of the woody and weedy cover and nothing.

Not two weeks earlier did we have a banner day, all day, boating many chainsides and chunky bass that were hammering our chatterbaits and soft plastics.  The upper end of the lake that week was loaded with predators, and massive schools of bait to keep predatory fish happy.  Golden shiners and schools of shad were on the upper lake menu that day.
Last year, prior to the cool down, we caught bass like this and chain pickerel all day long on woody and weedy cover.  They were chasing baitfish in the upper end of the lake.
So where were the predators?  Where they just suffering from lockjaw due to the weather and cold temperatures?  Or did they move?  Not only did we not catch anything in the upper end of the lake or on any of the cover, but we didn't see any baitfish either.

It was so tough we resorted to fishing for crappie and bluegills.  Not that panfishing is bad.  Not at all, they can save a trip and turn a bad day into a good one.  In fact, when the crappie bite is on, fishing days are far from crappy.  They can be as fun as any fishing day of the year.  But, we were spoiled.  Chunky bass and big toothy pickerel were still on our minds.

On that day last November, we had Northeast winds blowing down the lake all day.  The forecast called for wind speeds in the five to ten miles per hour range, but they turned out to be more like ten to twenty.  It made for tough fishing and tough boat control.

While we were drifting from one crappie spot to the next, we remarked how the wind was piling up on the Southern shore.  Of course, warmer temps would be there, it was the deepest part of the lake, and that might be where the bait went.  So, we opted to try for predators once again.

My mind couldn't shake the sight of bass and chain pickerel chasing baitfish two weeks earlier, so I opted to tie on a gold half ounce Rat-L-Trap to imitate the golden shiners that are prevalent in this lake.  Neither Howard nor I had ever fished rattling lipless crankbaits in this lake.  Normally, these lures are hot during the spring, so it wouldn't previously have been my top choice in the fall.  But they do cover water quickly, and do resemble the forage for this lake.

My first cast toward the deep end resulted in too deep of a retrieve and hooks full of snot grass (bottom scum like algae). So, I tried another cast keeping my rod tip up and cranking medium speed, and wham, nice fish on.  After a nice fight, I landed a chunky four and a half pound bass (weighed four pounds seven ounces and went twenty inches long).
Matching the hatch, a gold Rat-L-Trap imitating a golden shiner, proved the ticket to land this fat bass, combined with finding the right location.
The pattern held all afternoon after that.  The rattling lipless crankbait boated several nice fat bass in the three pound range the rest of the day.  In addition, we landed some large chain pickerel in the same area.  As evening approached, we fished the crankbaits on the way back to the ramp around wood, like you might do with a chatterbait or spinnerbait, and that too produced some fine bass and pickerel.

Matching the hatch along with figuring out where the predatory fish liked to be this time of year were keys to our success.  The Northeast winds piled up warm water along the deeper section of the lake.  The baitfish were there, and so where the predators.  As the temperatures warmed during the day, some of the bass and pickerel moved into the cover that seemed devoid of life just hours earlier.
We actually accidentally snagged some of these baitfish yesterday with our crankbaits.  At first, I kept thinking that fish were bumping my lure, or perhaps I was ticking the tops of weeds or cover.  Well, I finally snagged one, and it turned out to be this little critter, a gizzard shad.  Bob and Howard also hooked a couple of them.  When you find these, predatory fish are close by.
So yesterday, we all made it to the ramp.  Temperatures were below freezing, with ice on the dock next to the ramp, and frost covering all of the cut soy bean and corn fields everywhere on the ride to the lake.  The surface water temperature was a chilly 44.3 degrees according to my depthfinder.

After an hour of trying the lily pads and woody cover with just a couple bites and no fish landed, we pondered crappie fishing again.  But wait, remember last year?  Howard and I made the change early and headed right for the deeper water where the wind once again piled up warmer water.  The water temperature there was 46 degrees, nearly two degrees warmer.  And, my depthfinder marked schools of baitfish everywhere.

I had my gold Rat-L-Trap already tied on for just such an occasion.  My first cast was with the wind as the boat drifted in the same direction.  With the rod tip held high like last year to keep the snot grass off the hooks, I didn't crank five times when, wham, a nice hit.  I was pumped up as my first cast in that area resulted in a 19 1/2 inch largemouth with a big head and not much of a belly, but it was a good fish, and my first fish of the day.
My first cast with my gold lipless crankbait golden shiner imitation resulted in this long probably older bass.  But it couldn't have been more beautiful to me after a tough start. 
Howard snapped a couple photos with my camera and my phone.  We then took some measurements and released the fish.  I quickly texted Bob about what we found with a picture of my new fish telling him to bring him and his boy down to our location.

After we drifted several yards , I picked up my rod and made my second cast, again, with the wind and the drift.  About eight cranks, rod tip high, and wham!  After another good fight.  This time I landed another chunky bass that measured a nice 17 inches.  More pics, the release, texting Bob again, and back to fishing.  Things seemed to be working in our favor, the tide had turned, and what seemed like a tough fall day was looking up.
My very next cast resulted in a much fatter but slightly shorter 17 inch largemouth bass.
Not long after that last fish, I landed this 18 inch largemouth.  What was a tough day for me was turning to a banner day quickly.
Like last year, the fall pattern was holding.  My gold Rat-L-Trap fished with the rod tip high in the deeper water was producing.  Bass were gobbling it up.  Even the pickerel where there, as Howard found out.  His Rat-L-Trap was bitten off and taken from him.  That had to be a huge chainside.

Soon, Bob and Carson made their way to our spot.  I told them of the pattern, and soon they were both working the deeper water with the rattling crankbaits.  It didn't take long for Carson, an eight year old quick learning heck of an angler (watch out KVD), to hook up and expertly fight and, with some help of his Dad, land the biggest chain pickerel of his life.
Bob holding Carson's chain pickerel, his personal best.  Watch out KVD, here comes Carson on the angling scene!  Don't worry Mr. Van Dam, Carson still is a bit nervous about holding his fish, so you have some time.
About ten minutes later, Carson proceeded to land his personal best largemouth, a fat 19 incher!  Bob joked about how his fishing karma had rubbed off on Carson, leaving him to start over again.  We also pointed out how his six year old boy had been putting a thumpin' on his Dad!  But Dad didn't take long to show his stuff, landing a nice chainside too.
Carson smiling proudly over his catch, a personal best 19 inch nearly four pound largemouth as his Dad proudly displays if for him.
Bob with a nice chain pickerel caught on a chrome Rat-L-Trap.
We had a very early start, and although Carson was excited to fish and about as happy as he could be over his catches, he ran out of gas around two in the afternoon.  Bob and his tuckered out child angling prodigy headed home, leaving the rest of the pickerel and bass for us.

Howard and I continued to work the area hard.  Fishing wasn't easy, but it was consistently giving up quality fish.  Not only did the rattling lipless crankbait work, but I also did well on a shallow diving shad like chrome crankbait, the Luhr-Jensen Speed Trap.  I also managed to catch four keepers, but also my smallest fish on my trusty plastic worm after finding some deeper water cover.

Like the past year, as the day neared the end, we fished our way back to the ramp hitting the woody cover that was fishless just hours earlier.  By this time, the water temperature had warmed to nearly 50 degrees.  I suspected that once the water warmed enough, some predators would move back into the woody cover.  I fished my Rat-L-Trap again, like a spinnerbait, and hooked and lost two nice chain pickerel, but landed one smaller pickerel and a few more fat bass, including a 17 3/4 inch and 18 inch largemouth.
Another fat crankbait bass, this one on a Luhr-Jensen chrome Speed Trap, again, fished with the rod tip high.
Howard connecting with a quality toothy predator, Esox niger, the chain pickerel.  This beauty inhaled a white chatterbait.
Luck... Experience plays a huge role, but when fishing open water, making that right cast is a combination of luck and experience.  But confidence in what you are doing, based on experience, improves your odds and brings you luck.  You caught fish there last year, doing the same thing, consistently.  Chances are, under the same conditions, your odds are pretty good that it will happen again.  Why one guy catches bass under these conditions and another angler doesn't, seemingly doing the exact same thing with identical lures, well more than likely it's luck.  Or, it could be subtle differences in tackle or technique.

Good Fall Bassin'...Now, another key component with finding bass in the fall is to use lures that can cover a lot of water quickly.  These search baits, like spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and chatterbaits, can really rack up the numbers for you, but may take a lot of casts when bass are in open water.  Rattling lipless crankbaits and diving crankbaits are good choices for locating schools of fish that feed on shad.

My day seemed tough at first, but turned out to be a great fall bassing day.  I finished with eighteen fat largemouth bass, with my biggest seven bass ranging from 17 inches to 19 3/4 inches.  The other ten fish were between 13 and 15 inches.  I managed a nice pickerel too, along with a crappie that inhaled a plastic worm.  Apparently, the crappie thought he was a largemouth.  Eight bass were on the Rat-L-Trap, four fell for the plastic worm, and six quality bass engulfed my Luhr-Jensen Speed Trap.

So there you have it folks.  Experience combined with a little luck, could turn a chilly fall day into one of your best bassin' days of the year.

By the way, I want to thank everyone who keeps checking my blog for updates, and at the same time apologize for keeping you waiting for my next post.  I'll do a much better job in the future with updates.  Stay tuned with more fishing, hunting, and shark toothing articles.  I have a special shark tooth article nearly completed, highlighting some adventures of some internet friends from South Carolina.  Have a happy Thanksgiving!


Wolfy said...


Love your blog posts - great pics and content. I'm a new (1-1/2 years) MD resident who hasn't really taken to MD fishing yet but my wife and I HAVE discovered fossil hunting, and my blog has turned into more of a fossil blog than a fishing log.

Keep up the nice work.


Fat Boy said...

Thank you Wolfy for the nice compliment! I'll have to add your blog to my favorites section. I meant to do that earlier, but got busy and it slipped my mind.