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Autumn Angling

Cool weather makes for some hot fishing
By John Neporadny, Jr.
Published: September 1, 2009
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Anglers of all ages can get in on some exciting bass fishing action in autumn.
Photo by John Neporadny, Jr.

The autumn spectacle of leaves turning your lake cabin’s landscape into a blend of gold, red and orange hues signals a prime time for fishing.

The shorter days and cooler nights of fall cut down on the foodmaking process for trees, which causes the leaves to reveal the bold colors hiding behind the green chlorophyll. And fall’s cooler weather causes a different reaction in the waters around your cabin, as dropping water temperatures trigger game fish to feed heavily in preparation for winter.

Fall is a wonderful time to fish since the lower temperatures provide relief from the scorching heat of summer and the autumn leaf display adds an extra touch of beauty to the lake scenery. Competition also diminishes considerably as some anglers are summer purists while others turn their attention to hunting.

The action can get fast and furious when you find your favorite game fish foraging in the fall. Here are some tips that will help you experience some of your best fishing of the year.

White Lightning

If your lake has a good population of white bass, these fish strike as quick as lightning during the fall as they gorge on baitfish.

Focus on casting to any rocky points or sandy pockets where waves are crashing into the banks and you can load the boat in a hurry with these hard-striking fish.

My favorite lures for whites are a 4-inch Rebel Minnow and combo of a small topwater chugger with a 1/16-ounce marabou jig trailer. For the combo, I tie a leader line of 8-pound test to the bottom hook of the chugger and attach the jig to the leader.

I retrieve both the combo and the Rebel lures with a constant jerking motion that triggers the whites into biting.

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White bass are one of the easiest game fish to catch when the water cools down in the fall.
Photo by JOhn Neporadny, Jr.

Catching Crappie

Crappie also gorge themselves on baitfish in the fall. These fish tend to suspend over various types of cover in the fall so you need to use a slowfalling jig that will stay in the strike zone longer.

I have discovered in the last couple of years that autumn crappie seem to prefer a miniature version of the shaky-head worm that has become popular in bass fishing. The most productive lures I have used for a miniature shaky-head presentation are the Berkley Atomic Teaser and a Berkley Gulp Alive Fish Fry attached to a 1/16-ounce jighead.

Buzzing the Water

One of the most exciting ways to catch bass during this season is to run a buzz bait in the shallows. Bending the cups of the buzz bait’s blades inward allows you to run the lure on the surface at a slow speed for fish that slap at the lure and miss. For more aggressive fish, you can bend the blade cups outward to run the lure at high speeds on the surface.

Sleep In

As the nights get cooler in the fall, you can usually start fishing later in the day when the sun warms the water and baitfish become more active. On sunny days, the best action occurs during the warmest part of the day, usually from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Weed Out

Aquatic vegetation provides ideal cover for a variety of game fish in the fall, but avoid any brown weeds that appear to be dying. The brown, decaying plants deplete oxygen from the water, which prompts game fish to move to other areas with high oxygen content.

Go Upriver

The best early fall action usually occurs in the creeks and rivers that flow into your favorite lake. Massive schools of baitfish migrate into these tributaries and game fish follow to partake in a fall feast. Any type of spinner, crankbait or surface plug that mimics the action and colors of the prevalent baitfish in your lake will trigger strikes from a variety of game fish.

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Find a school of baitfish near some cover and you can load up on slab-sized crappie.
Photo by John Neporadny, Jr.

Speed It Up

Since many game fish feed so aggressively during this season, you can use high-speed retrieves to generate more bites. Burning a spinnerbait on the surface or running a crankbait at a fast clip and banging it into cover are just a few surefire ways to trick bass into striking.

Avoid the Turnover

When the cooling surface water becomes heavier than the lower layers of water, the lake turns over and the water layers at all depths eventually contain the same water temperature and oxygen levels. During this process, the fishing slows down for a couple of days or a week.

If your part of the lake turns a pea-green hue with a sudsy-looking surface and the water has a rotten egg smell, it is experiencing the turnover, so you should move on to another area where the water looks and smells better.

Autumn produces such great fishing action that you just have to get in as many casts as possible before it’s time to start raking.

John Neporadny, Jr. is a former guide who gave up the profession because he soon discovered it was a lot easier to write about fishing rather than to try to make a living at it.

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