By Heath Smith, IAFF member & tournament angler
You survived the doldrums of summer, or have you?
The early summer to fall transition can be a pretty slow bite, somewhat like a hot July day on the lake. However, there are two major differences. The first is location. In the fall transition period, bass begin to move to much shallower targets as opposed to summertime deepwater haunts. As the nights begin to cool the surface temperature of the lake, the fish move to shallow targets, such as boat docks, lay downs, and any shallow ambush points they can utilize. Bass have one thing on the brain this time of year and that is baitfish. Whatever baitfish you have in your favorite lake is what the bass want.
Typically, the baitfish also begin a migration period as night time temperatures dip into that blissful 50 degree range. The baitfish begin to move toward the back of the creeks and pockets to feed on phytoplankton brought in by the fresh inflow of water. If you can’t see baitfish flickering on the surface or birds diving to the surface, move on to the next pocket or creek arm. This doesn’t usually take long as nearly every pocket or creek on a given lake will have some visual activity once the water temps begin to cool off.
Once you find the baitfish, the bass will not be far behind. Bass are opportunists and follow the bait and set up a buffet in preparation for the long winter ahead. Baits that are key this time of year are shad imitation lures, such as Strike King Red Eye Shad lipless crank baits; Spinner Baits; Square bill crank baits like the Strike King KVD 1.5; and don’t forget to throw the Sexy Dawg top water baits.
In summary, keep your eyes open for the best fishermen on the lake. Who are the best fishermen you ask? Birds of course; these creatures are by far the best fishermen in the world—not even KVD can hang with them. If you see birds working an area and diving to the water repeatedly, you have found some baitfish. And where there’s baitfish, the bass will be close by.
The fishing can be slow to start in the fall, but as the lakes become empty and the deer woods fill up, the fishing gets dynamite. Good luck to you, and remember that, as union men and women, we built this great country, and the wonderful fishing opportunities it offers all Americans is part of what makes it great! God Bless and tight lines.
Heath Smith is an IAFF fireman, professional tournament angler and guide in central Alabama. For the past three years, IBEW Local 136 has sponsored his journey to qualify and compete at the highest level of professional bass fishing and prove what a hardworking, blue collar guy is capable of. You can keep up with his latest tournament results and upcoming events by following him on Facebook and Twitter.