The summer is in the rear view and as the weather quickly makes a turn for the cold, some anglers are scrambling to get out for those last few trips of the season before the boat gets packed away for another long winter. Most area lakes are hitting that magical upper 50's temperature that signals to the fish that it's time to eat up before the ice puts the lake on lock-down. But as the water temps continue to drop, and the feedbags are full, how can you entice those big fall fish into biting?
There are always some key factors such as finding green vegetation, locating warming areas, or hard cover, but one approach has worked for me better than any other over the years, and it's pretty simple once you have found an area that you are confident is holding, or has the potential to hold fish.
The best way to understand the fish's mood it to put yourself in their shoes, if they were capable of wearing shoes, which I guess wouldn't make them fish at all. It'd probably make catching them a bit weirder too. Almost as weird as this tangent, so I digress...
My point is this: As the water gets cooler in the lake, inching further down towards the low 50's and high 40's, most of the fish are beyond the typical fall feed-up frenzy. They have already packed their bellies so full of food that it would make Joey Chestnut blush. Their appetites are satiated and they are ready to hunker down as their metabolism slows. Big fat bass, most at their peak weight for the season, just settling in for a long winter's nap.
So how do you catch them? I have an analogy that should paint a pretty good picture for you.
Think Thanksgiving. Turkey, potatoes, yams, cranberries, stuffing, gravy, and all of your favorite foods. As you dish up you try to get a bit of everything on your plate, often stacking several things together to make it work. It's the biggest plate of food you have sat down to all year, and while your family watches, you methodically take down every bite. Now, on any other day, you would sit back and say to yourself "Holy smokes, I shouldn't have eaten that much", and then called it quits.
But not on Thanksgiving!
You go back for another serving, this time focusing on a few of the favorites from round one. After polishing off round two, you sit back, loosen the belt a notch, and start to realize how miserably fully, yet happy, you are.
Then something happens.
Grandma brings out her famous pumpkin and pecan pies.
As you sit at the table you swear you are not going anywhere near that pie for fear of embarrassing your entire family, and also of splitting your pants and popping the buttons off your now tight fitting shirt.
But there it sits. Pecans smiling at you. Whip cream ready to be dolloped. The smell is so powerful that you can actually taste it.
Your mouth begins to water just a little.
Let's face it. The longer it sits there in front of you, the more likely it is that a slice or two is going to end up in your belly, and sure enough, after a bit of settling from the main course, you reach over and dish up that sweet sweet pie, dollop the whipped cream, open up, and enjoy just a little more.
Now you are a bass.
You've just gone through a dozen or so crayfish, a few decent sized perch, and couple frogs, a handful of leeches, and to top it off...a few more crayfish. Now you find yourself bellied to the bottom, wondering if you will ever be able to swim fast enough to catch a bluegill again.
Then something flashy swims quickly over your head. You could care less.
Next thing you know a wounded looking bait fish caroms off the stump you sitting next to. Annoying guy should watch where he is going. No wonder he is hurt.
Suddenly something like a crayfish plops down in front of you, and it's just sitting there. What is it doing? Just sort of bouncing a little once in while. Doesn't he see me here? Looks tasty and smells pretty good. Is that garlic? Man I'm full, but if it's just going to sit there...
Guess I'll eat it.
Why is it stabbing me in the face and pulling me up to the surface?!
See my point?
Next time you are out in the fall and the bite is slow, slow down, be patient, and you just might find yourself hoisting your biggest fish of the year!