It's the most wonderful time of the year is here again. Football season is back, and so are the big brown bass! As the water temperatures cool in the fall, the bass action heats up, and smallmouth bass can become frenzied maniacs in preparation for the long winter ahead.
On a recent guide trip that took my clients and I to my favorite lake in Minnesota, Mille Lacs Lake, we found first hand that while the bite is not always good for quantity, it can be great for quality!
It's funny how fishing goes sometimes. Somedays you catch fish until you are worn out, but never quite find that trophy lunker you were hunting. Other days the stars all align and you find good quality fish with good numbers. That said, my favorite days are the ones in which the numbers are down, but for some reason, the big girls are hungry, and the quality is top notch. My latest trip was one of these days.
Now, this being a guide trip, I felt some pressure to get the numbers up, but lucky for me it seemed that my clients weren't after numbers either, they wanted big fish. It didn't take long before the trophies started showing up.
My basic fall approach is simple: be ready for anything, try about anything, but key in on subtleties of the bite. I find that in fall, more so than almost any other time of the year, the types of bites that fish show you will help you key in on presentation and bait. On this day the fish showed themselves early on and held true all day. Our first spot produced our first fish, a trophy 5 pound 8 ounce brown tanker truck.
We started with a variety of baits ranging from tube jigs, drop shots, spooks, jerkbaits, to spybaits. After the first few bites it became very obvious that the fish wanted the bait on the bottom and they wanted it slow. Very slow. The bite was more like a panfish or rock bass just pecking at the tube jig until they finally just grabbed it and sat in place. We found that when we felt a bite it was best to hold the bait as still as possible, checking for tension every few seconds. No tension...let it sit. Tension...set the hook!
Conditions were right for big fish, and will keep improving as the water temp cools. When we hit the lake we were looking at temps at 59-60 degrees in most areas. Just right to get the fish moving around a bit. For the most part the bites came in the "in-between" areas, meaning not on the deeper rock edges, but not up shallow. Most were in that 8-10 foot range over the rocks as they transition up to shallower flats and shoals. My experience has been that once the water hits the mid 50's the fish will set up, some on the deep edges, some on the shallow flats, but all will be ready to eat!
So before the snow flies in the north part of the country be sure to get out and find those big fall bass. The window is opening, but it will close just as quickly, and those long winter months will have you pining for open water hooksets and big ol' bass!