A lot of bassers will tell you fall bass fishing is some of the best you can get in Colorado in regards to size and quality of fish. This may be true especially this year, as summer has drawn out hotter and longer than ever. However fall bass fishing can be very challenging for me and admittedly not my best game. So as soon as I see the end of summer approaching my transition to fall begins.
The change in seasons can be very subtle for those of us that live indoors and we may not see fall coming until the leaves are yellow. Daytime temperatures are still flirting with 80 and even 90 degrees but the heat index is dropping near 50 in the evening hours. Water temperatures at the warm water destinations that I fish regularly are at 70-72 degrees Fahrenheit. This means metabolisms are still high and fish should be active. This is the tail end of the summer bite and it still fishes and feels like summer from the boat. But the colder nights and shorter days let the fish know things are changing and time is running out. Bass will be looking to bulk up before winter when their body factory slows down.
The first thing I start to notice about fall fishing is the drop off in forage. Most fish have stopped spawning and the smorgasbord of summer starts to dwindle down to a mere soup line at best. Populations of fish dwelling in the shallows become increasingly less once we leave the warm days of summer. Lions generally follow the herds of their prey and this mentality transitions over to my bass fishing. Once smaller fish leave the shallow spawning grounds the largemouth go with them. I find myself searching out the deeper structure points and leaning more on the electronics this time of year. Once I locate deep structure such as rock piles, sunken trees or submerged points fish of all sizes will generally pop up on the electronics (even on my cheap sonar).
Baitfish patterns like crankbaits and spinnerbaits are the bread and butter of the fall season. I also like to throw ½oz spoons in fall if there is plenty of open water to cover. The colors transition to darker colors with more orange, brown and red. I also tend to go bigger in the fall and then dial down ¼oz if bites don’t come along. My thinking here is that the bass will be keying on larger fish because that is the most common food source at this time. It isn’t a perfect science and not near as consistent as I would like.
My next option is jigging with crawdad presentations and a few plastic options. Once again this is generally the stuff I threw in July at the same locations. In reality the fish will most likely hit anything that is well conceived and presented. The only difference is that I am slowing the retrieve and going a lot deeper with the lure. In some cases I will work the bait right on the bottom with very little movement if I think the fish are beneath me. This technique often triggers a reaction bite from even stubborn fish.
In the case above I am throwing a combination of fly and bass material. Nothing pretty about this rig and I have a few kinks to work out before getting too yackity shmackity. The style is similar to the ones That Mountain Goat Keith made for Don, which he has had success with. The trick to this bait is a color combination with natural movement in the water and a perfect balance of weight. The lure needs to fall like a fleeing fish but not dig itself into the weed matte below.
This year I have done more fly-fishing for bass than trout and the success is a combination of water and luck. The fish at some of my regular haunts may have gotten wise to my spin gear but they completely let their guard down on anything with bunny fur. Quite a few of my late summer trout destinations are on hold right now due to drought conditions. So why not try to trick a few bass that have been ignoring my spin game? It is not so much a preference as a need for success.