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Fall Backwater Bass*
of wood pokes from shallow
water hinting at the lair below. A compact white spinnerbait slides in
nearby, deftly aimed between dead shoreline cattails and the stickup.
No other place to hide. The lure flashes past the twig. A bulge, then
boil, signals the take. The rod arcs. Me against six pounds of dark
green, eating machine.
I had a nickel for every time this scene of
fall largemouth ambush pops into my head, during the typical staff
meeting for instance (sorry Boss!). Well, let’s just say I
might be able to quit the day job after all. I love fall bass fishing.
Actually, I love all fishing, but fall bass battles have created my
favorite lasting memories. I’d like to tell you why, and how,
to make the most of the year’s best bass fishing.
‘why’ part is easy. Fall
fishing is very good. Using my fishing fantasy location above, if it
were summer, I’d be lucky to catch a ten-inch bass. Fall, now
that’s another story. The same exact spot could yield a huge
hulk of a bass. Fall is the best season for pursuit of big largemouth
actually believe most bodies of water produce
better during the fall. Weed cover is dead or dying. Man-made
structures are being pulled from the water. Bass begin running out of
hiding places. Also, humankind’s aquatic activity
decreases drastically after
Dekker hoists a huge Michigan largemouth that inhaled a baby bass
Bomber Shallow A
Day weekend. Bass, having a very short memory
(or at least I think so), start hitting lures again like
they’ve never seen them before. To help out, autumn bass
often school up tighter causing more competition. Competitive bass make
all this, some lakes and rivers are still
better fall candidates than others. Since we want to increase our odds
for success, we want to identify these waters. Luckily, one type of
fall hotspot exists in relative abundance and is easy to identify using
a minimal amount of information. The ideal lake or river needs a number
of backwater areas. These can be bays, creek arms, or even man-made
canals. The best backwaters contain a decent amount of wood cover.
Largemouths gravitate to backwater wood during the fall.
clockwork, largemouth bass make this strong
movement into backwater areas starting around Labor Day. Once
you’ve identified a productive backwater, you can return and
catch bass year after year. Some of the best lakes in Michigan for this
pattern are very weedy during the summer. Lots of weeds buffer the bass
from heavy fishing pressure, and even prevents heavy pressure on some
lakes. Examples of these types of lakes include reservoirs such as the
Tittabawassee River impoundments – Secord & Wixom,
and Lake Ovid in Clinton County; shallow lakes similar to Lower Crooked
in Barry County; and the lower Grand River Bayous near Grand Haven.
Another type of great fall backwater spot, real sleepers, includes
river-run reservoirs such as Lansing’s Grand River
impoundment above Moores Park Dam.
use these specific examples as guidelines to
help identify similar places. These are locations I personally know
have very good to excellent fall largemouth fishing, although they may
or may not be considered good summer locations. Most autumns,
you’ll find me haunting one of these after Labor Day. Waters
near your home may be just as good or better. To find them, look for a
similar makeup. If you aren’t familiar with these specific
examples, you can get an idea of their formation from a lake map or
even a county road map.
am fortunate to fish many tournaments with good
anglers from all over the Midwest. I learn of many excellent waters
through this great word-of-mouth source. It’s a superb
information system, but not the only way to find out about hot spots.
You can quickly identify fall fishing possibilities using the maps and
a little ‘drive-by’ scouting.
always recommend getting a lake map first if
available. Michigan lake maps can be purchased inexpensively from the
Michigan United Conservation Clubs headquarters at 517-371-1041. They
have an extensive catalogue. Maps are invaluable in searching for fall
hot spots and targeting potential fishing locations. Use the map to
look for backwaters ranging from two to ten feet deep. Quite often, the
best, especially for large bass, will have good access to channels or
dropoffs. I fish these first, but usually check all areas to rule them
out. Bass are full or surprises.
on the water, a real advantage of shallow
backwater fishing – you can usually fish regardless of the
weather. You’ll be protected from breezy weather. Fall
weather is often cool and wet, but those overcast, drizzly October days
have produced many of my largest catches. Another bonus –
fall bass fortune can be had for only a handful of lures. The bulk of
my backwater bass are caught on white spinnerbaits and weedless jig and
pigs. Start out with a double white willow leaf bladed spinnerbait. On
unfamiliar water, or those with most bass averaging around two pounds,
use a compact lure, say about a quarter ounce. If I know the lake holds
numbers of bigger bass, I‘ll start out with a large lure,
half an ounce or more. Gives them something worth eating.
up a white jig and white pork trailer. Though
not as common as the black and blue, or brown jigs most anglers throw,
a white jig is a deadly fall largemouths combo when bass are on minnow
patrol. I still use dark colors, especially if I feel the bass are
keying on crayfish, or around rocks. More often, I believe color is for
the angler, not the bass. The key for fall bass is getting a lure close
enough to be an easy meal. When bass are aggressive, color may not
matter at all. It’s hard to prove color’s
importance to a bass. It’s not hard to prove
color’s importance to an angler. If you have great confidence
in your lure color, use it. You will fish it better.
choices for backwater bass include minnow baits such as
soft plastic Sluggos and Rattlin’ Rogues or Bomber Long
A’s; Crankbaits such as Bomber Model A’s in dark
green crayfish or firetiger; And Ringworms.
Throw jerkbaits as tight to
cover as possible or into openings. Bass that don’t respond
to spinnerbaits or jigs can be teased into striking a minnow bait
twitched slowly and erratically. Model A Crankbaits can be bounced
right through brush with a little practice. The careening lure fools
pressured bass into reacting to something they rarely see.
rigged weedless, can be dropped through small holes in cover. I use
this plastic worm when bass aren’t chasing or reacting to
faster presentations. It's a small finesse lure that excels at catching
big bass. Because fall lure needs are simple, you
don’t need many
different rod and reel combinations either. Three will cover most
situations. Foremost, a five and a half to six foot medium heavy
casting rod makes a great spinnerbait rod. The short rods helps with
quiet, sidearm casts.
Since I don’t want to lose a huge bass
to broken line, I spool my spinnerbait reel with fifteen to thirty
pound test line depending on the cover and potential bass size for the
lake. Use a six to seven and a half foot rod for flipping jigs and
worms into cover.
Whether a spinning or casting rig is up to you. The
casting rig has more power, while the spinning rig presents lighter
lures easier. Spool up with twelve to thirty pound tough line such as
Trilene XT or Fireline, one of the new ‘super’
lines. For me, the third rod is always a seven foot crankbait rod. I
like twelve to seventeen pound line. I replace hooks on my Model
A’s and minnow baits with larger high tech hooks such as
Mustad Triple Grips or Heddon Excaliburs. These new hooks stick and
land more bass. Short of replacement, make sure you sharpen your
crankbait hooks and keep them sharp.
to start fishing. Visually locate every piece
of cover. Usually, the biggest, baddest bass will be in the thickest
prime cover. If other anglers are out, I go right to the best looking
wood cover. If no one else is in sight, start at the nearest object.
Although cover such as a large tree laying in the water is prime, fall
backwater bass often relate to very small objects and bottom changes.
I've caught fall bass from water pumps, barrels, buckets, pipes, single
weed strands, metal rails, tires, small wooden posts and under floating
leaves or grass to name a few. Fish everything carefully and quietly.
Before you start, decide on the direction you’ll move. I like
to go counter-clockwise around a bay simply because I cast forehand
most accurately. In shallow water, you’ll fool more bass with
the quiet approach and short, accurate casts.
shallow backwater pocket, a large collapsed dock - the only good cover
available - and a willowleaf spinnerbait added together equaled another
big ol' bass for Larry
multiple casts to cover. On good days, the first cast will catch the
aggressive bass. I still throw several casts at the target from
different angles. Incredible numbers of bass can bunch up in small
areas, especially later in the season. Start with the spinnerbait.
Prime cover requires you drop the jig in a few times before you move
on. The big bass this follow up tactic often catches is the one that
holds you over during those long, cold winters. As you retrieve, bump
your lure into limbs, dock posts, pad stalks, anything solid. The
abrupt change in cadence triggers many strikes, especially from big,
wary bass. With cover close to shore, don’t be afraid to jump
your lure into the water from shore. How a big bass can get so shallow
sometimes is a mystery, but they do. Overhanging brush is particularly
recent experience proved this point. On a chilly
fall day, I rented a rowboat on a small lake nearby. I started off
fishing available wood cover. After two nice bass, I ran out of obvious
spots. I rowed around most of the lake. Being a breezy day, fishing the
remaining weed edges was very difficult and inefficient from the little
rowboat. My arms were tired and the cement anchors weren’t
holding. The last place I hadn’t fished was protected. I
faced the large, shallow mud flat. Patches of scraggly, sparse pads
were visible, but no weed edge. And no wood. A white buzzbait attracted
one tiny bass with more heart than head. I proceeded into an open lane
between shore and the pad beds hoping for shallow weeds. Instead, I
found a few tiny bass chasing tinier minnows. The only visible cover
was four small bushes with branches growing just over the
water’s edge. It was really shallow. It appeared a small bass
might squeeze under the branches if you pushed it real hard, into the
mud...on its side.
launched a small jig to the edge of the first
branches, .my lack of faith apparent in a sloppy splash. One branch
quivered slightly. Probably the shockwave. I set the hook out of habit
expecting to dodge my lure. Instead, a respectable largemouth
tail-walked across the water (mud). Turns out there were five
bass...three nice ones...in that short stretch of branches. An obvious
clue I missed became apparent when I pushed up to shore scattering many
small frogs. My lure probably looked like an unfortunate frog (victim)
jumping into the water. Explains how I got away with my splashdown.
Bass go where to food is.
guarantees in bass fishing, but following these tips on your nearest
backwater this fall could introduce you to the next best thing for
largemouths; And you may just catch those big ones that eluded you all
- Lures & Tackle for Backwater Bass
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previously appeared edited in the September 1997 issue of Michigan