Shallow Water Largemouth in the Fall

September 16, 2014 by  

By Bob Jensen

When I moved to north central Minnesota waaaaay too many years ago, I liked to chase largemouth bass.  Many of my friends thought that was strange, as walleyes were the preferred fish of many anglers in the north during that era.  And while it was true that walleyes were available in many waters, so were largemouth bass, and they got very little fishing pressure when compared to walleyes.  In many instances, that made them pretty susceptible to an angler’s lure.  One of the times that they are very susceptible is right now, early fall to ice-up.  And, while much of the time they are on a point or turn on the deeper weedline, there are times when they can be found shallower, and, when they’re shallow, they’re biters.  Here’s how you can get in on that shallow largemouth action in the autumn.

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Big bass bite in the fall.

At this time of year, much of the shallow water “slop” that holds big bass all summer long has disappeared.  There might still be some lily-pads and that sort of the thing, but that kind of shallow water vegetation, in most lakes, will be taking a several month nap.  We’ll be concentrating on reeds, and where available, wild rice.  The largemouth will make feeding forays into these areas throughout the next few weeks.

Many anglers like to concentrate their efforts for bass this time of the year at mid-day, and they also prefer sunshine.  The sun warms the water and makes the bass bite, and the water will often be warmest at mid-day.

However, I like to get on the water and spend as much time there as possible.  When I have a day to go fishing, I’m going to be out there pretty early.  And, I’ve caught some pretty nice bass at 8:00 in the morning in the fall.  It’s more crucial to be on the water early in the summer than in the fall, but you can catch some pretty good bass earlier in the morning than some anglers think.

Also, I really like warm overcast days in the fall.  Sunshine helps on some lakes, especially those with stained water.  But an overcast day on a clear water bass lake can provide some pretty good action, or at least it has for me and my fishing partners in the past few years.

Our go-to baits for these reed and rice largemouth will be a spinnerbait and a rubber-legged jig with a plastic body.  The bigger and bulkier the better: In the fall the bass like big baits.

We’re working the spinnerbait just like you would usually work a spinnerbait.  A slow, steady retrieve can be good, but a slow stroking retrieve can also be productive.  A stroking retrieve is when you pull the spinnerbait slowly with the rod, then quickly reel up the slack and start another stroke.  The spinnerbait moves forward with the rod, then stops briefly while you reel in the slack.  Pull the rod horizontally.

We’re often working the jig just like the spinnerbait.  It’s called swimming the jig, and it’s very productive.

When you come to some heavier clumps of reeds or rice, try dropping the jig into the clumps.  Don’t go into the rice: Fish just the edges and heavier clumps.  Chances are the people who harvest the wild rice will have already been in there.  Their presence will move the bass to the edges of the rice.

As mentioned earlier, big, bulky baits will be the best.  Take a Reed-Runner spinnerbait and add a four inch Impulse Swimn’ Grub or an Impulse Jerk Shad.  It works well to have the plastic color contrast with the skirt color.

The heavier Magnum Reed-Runner has larger blades, and although it was designed as more of a pike or musky bait, this is the time of year when big bass will eat it willingly.

While spinnerbaits will catch lots of largemouth this time of year, and some big ones, if I was limited to one bait style to use right now and for the next few weeks, it would be the rubber-legged jig.  Plain and simple, largemouth bass really like to eat these things.  They can be fished through the heaviest of cover with less snagging than any other type of lure, they have a nice subtle action that bass like in cooler water, and they come in all the sizes and colors necessary to help you match the jig to the situation.

If you’re going to be swimming the jig, the key is, keep the jig light enough so you can swim it slowly.  Heavy jigs move too fast for cold water largemouth sometimes.  A bulky half ounce jig will work well much of the time.

Cast the jig out, let it sink a bit, then start a slow swimming retrieve.  You don’t want a straight retrieve: The stroking retrieve mentioned earlier will be best, especially in sparser cover.  When you come upon clumps of reeds or rice, you’ll want to work the entire clump from top to bottom.  When the bass are holding near clumps, they’ll often be near the bottom of the clump, so you want to get your jig right down there into their living room.

Again, team the jig with a piece of plastic.  A Jungle Jig tipped with an Impulse Brush Beaver is about as good as it gets.  Use a Brush Beaver that is a different color than the jig’s skirt.  A black/blue combination is a good place to start, as is watermelon or pumpkin/craw.  Don’t get too hung up on color.  Try different color combos until the fish tell you what they want.  They often won’t be too selective this time of year.

Use heavy line.  Seventeen pound test mono is the lowest you will want to go.  The odds of hooking a big fish are very good if you’re on big fish water, and they know their way around the neighborhood.  If you give them a chance to break off, they’ll do it.

Largemouth bass will be the primary target, but on some bodies of water there will also be northern pike and muskies cruising. Don’t be surprised to catch either, especially if you’re throwing the spinnerbait.

Also, don’t be surprised if you have the lake to yourself.  There are so many different things to do this time of year.  This shallow water bass opportunity presents itself all across the Midwest.  I am guessing that if you give it a chance, and if you have the type of success that is possible or even probable, you’ll move shallow water bass up your list of fall things to do.

 

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