Top Tips & Tactics
Going fishing in the fall doesn’t have to mean that you are limited to certain types of fish and specific areas of interest. You can cast a line anytime, anywhere (law permitting). Knowing how to adapt to the weather changes is the most important part of fishing year-round. Whether you’re hoping for “off-season” crappie, a pike with attitude, or a trophy-sized bass, these fishing tips will whip your casting game into shape!
First and foremost, you have to know the land. If you have taken a liking to a certain area for your fall fishing excursions, it is important to know where the best spots are, and where specific species will be lingering. For example, if you are fishing for crappie in the fall, you will want to make sure that you’re hunkering down near cover, like low-hanging trees, tall grasses, and shallow banks. Crappie will be moving up into shallower water as the weather starts to cool down, because the depths of the lakes will be too cold and without much food. In the southern region, the weather will still be slightly warm, so you won’t have to worry about sticking to the shallow water as much, but it is best to judge based off of the daily temperature.
Bass will be moving this time of year, so it won’t be too hard to reel one in. The fall is when bass aggressively attack food to fatten up for the winter season. Because of this, they will be going after anything that moves in the water. The most important thing when it comes to fall bass fishing: choosing your lures and bait wisely. Live bait is usually always preferred over lures when it comes to bass because of the smell that will attract them. However, lures can be quite beneficial if you know how to jig and crank. Another tip: go where the shad are. Bass will follow the shad up to the banks, which is where they will be going for warmer water. Go for a bobber in the shallower areas, and move it around a bit. You will have to expect that the bass will be more lethargic during the calmer days, when the water is cold and there are barely any breaks. At this time, it’s best to go deep and keep little movement on some live bait.
No matter what fish you are searching for, it is never a bad idea to cast several lines at a time, all with different sinkers and lures. If you have the option of grabbing half a dozen rods, set them all out accordingly, with a enough space in between, and anchor down. Simply wait to see what works. Perhaps that day they’ll prefer the crankbait crawdaddy, or the bright lure with a glittery tail and a bobber. Other days, they may go for only live bait, possibly even a piece of bread soaked in pickle juice.
When you have a handful of rods out, and you are testing all these different combinations, once you find what works, stick with it if you are looking to bring home a bucket full. Keep in mind that the best bait is going to be what the fish are used to seeing during this time of year. If you are fishing with spring frog baits in the fall, you may only get a bite or two, if any. If you are fishing with bait that matches the season, you are much more likely to snag a lunker.
Since you know the land, the weather, and now, which bait combo is working, you can adjust your times accordingly. If you are a morning fisherman, you will need to know the movements on the water for that day. If you are more prone to fishing at night, then you will have to adjust your lights accordingly, and expect that certain species won’t be out. Fishing at night will mean that you will have a better chance at reeling in a big one if you are hanging out in deeper waters. This is more true for the northern areas, where the change in temperature won’t be as dramatic. During the day, you will definitely want to move toward shallower water. When in doubt, always stay near vegetation. The greener, the better. This is where small baitfish will be hiding out and feeding, which in turn, is where your trophy will be headed to stock up on its food.
Catfish move similarly to bass, in that they will be aggressively attacking their food sources as the water gets cooler. For catfish, it is best to stay near the shore, and if possible, along the rocks. Catfish will be moving to the shores for coverage during the day, and the rocks bring them comfort, so that is where they’ll be most likely to bite. Catfish are one of the smarter species, and will not bite at a lure, unless you’re lucky. It is recommended that you stick to live, smelly bait when casting a line for these fish. Because you are probably going to catch your prized catfish near the rocks, you will want to ensure that your line is a strong one. Catfish are hard to reel in, and the rocks only make it harder, with the probability of your line breaking against the sharp surfaces as you pull them up. A strong line makes for an easier reel.
Pike is another good fish to have a strong line for. These fish are extremely aggressive during the fall, for the same reasons as bass and catfish, but they are much more likely to fight and cut your line in an instant. Using a predatory line is your best bet. Pike are fast, and will be located farther north. Because of this, the waters here will be colder, meaning the fish will be attacking your bait with angst. Go for a crankbait or some type of lure that you can move at a rapid pace with ease. This will create a challenge for the pike and they will instantly become interested. Once they lock on, prepare for a fight.
Freshwater fishing is where it’s at for the fall season, especially with so many fall bass fishing tournaments going on, as well as trout and pike adventures. If you are considering signing up for a tournament or group fishing trip, you will need to check for permits and fees. Deep sea saltwater fishing excursions are fun, too, but they’ll require an entirely different set of equipment, as you will be dealing with bigger fish than in freshwater. If you’re considering saltwater fishing this fall, we suggest booking a charter that will provide you with all necessary gear and training.
Always make sure that you are fishing legally, and brush up on which species are illegal to throw back, as well as which ones you must release. Purchase a species guide if you are not too sure about the types of fish that you will be picking up, and always make sure you have a tackle box with plenty of extras. As long as you follow these guidelines, you will not leave empty-handed.