By late summer, schools of shad, herring and other forage species start heading into the creeks, pockets and backwaters of reservoirs throughout the U.S. Soon, the combination of shortening daylight periods and autumn cold fronts will usher bass from their main lake haunts into these weather protected areas.
As you search for promising areas, bird activity is your first sign. Flocks of terns and gulls hovering close to the water, along with white pelicans paddling across the surface and herons standing on shoreline points all indicate the presence of baitfish.
Venturing into a creek, you’ll often find bass schooling on these vulnerable baitfish. Sometimes, it’s a pop here, a slurp there, and random flurries of concentrated carnage. Other times, you may see a football field of white water predation, as bass push the bait schools topside and unleash a relentless gorge fest.
It’s great when nature points you right to the action, but a creek lacking such dynamic signposts is not necessarily devoid of opportunity. Snoop around those channel edges with your sonar and look for the turns, kick-outs, and points where bait schools often gather.
Forward-facing sonar has greatly facilitated this search by providing real-time images of objects and fish ahead of the boat. Often, spotting a pod of bait gives you the heads-up for the next schooling section.
For the Feeding Frenzies
When the bass are schooling, they’ll bite a variety of artificials in the white, silver, and chartreuse patterns that mimic natural forage.
Walk a topwater over the area, run a LIVETARGET Sunfish Rattlebait through the flurry, or twitch, pause, twitch, twitch, pause a jerk bait until you dial in the daily preference.
When the fish are feeding on large forage, a full-size swimbait like the LIVETARGET Gizzard Shad or LIVETARGET Blueback Herring is a good bet. If it’s smaller baitfish they’re after, fish the LIVETARGET Threadfin Shad Swimbait or LIVETARGET Twitch Minnow on a light jig head.
When It’s Break Time
While an active day may give the impression that bass are schooling round the clock, that’s not realistic — at least, not for the same fish. Different groups of bass may stagger their feeding so that everywhere you look, you find some level of surface activity. But the truth is they all sit out a dance or two.
When this happens, the fish typically hold around whatever prominent cover is closest to where they were schooling. That might be a laydown tree, a cluster of stumps, a secondary point with scattered rocks, or maybe a dock. Pay attention to your surroundings and note the likely fall-back spots. When schooling action subsides, hit these likely areas with crankbaits like the LIVETARGET Shad Crankbait or LIVETARGET Sunfish Crankbait.
Don’t assume that the general fall focus on baitfish means the fish won’t also take advantage of other forage availability. There’s still plenty of crawfish, bluegill and sunfish in the creeks and pockets, so keep a diverse array of baits handy — especially for those in-between times. Crank any shallow cover you find or pick it apart with Texas-rigged craws or creature baits on a Mustad Grip Pin Flippin’ Hook.
The fall bass feeding frenzy is fleeting – so enjoy it while it lasts!
By: David A. Brown