Match the hatch. If you’ve been fishing any amount of time, you’ve probably heard that phrase ad nauseam. If you’re new to fishing, you’ll here it hundreds of times in the future. It’s a catchy little phrase no doubt, but it also embodies the most important principle of bait selection.
When deciding on what bait to throw, 9 times out of 10, it’s best to go with something that closely mimics whatever the local forage is in size, color and shape. This is what “match the hatch” means. And today, we’re going to talk about five great shad-style baits for matching the hatch in the fall
There are all sorts of bass fisheries across the country, with all sorts of baitfish and other forage swimming and crawling around in them. But across a large portion of the bass fishing world, threadfin shad are the most prevalent bait in the fall. This makes a small popper one of the best topwater baits during this season.
The Mad Max Popper from MONSTERBASS is truly one of the best finesse poppers of all-time, though there are certainly some other good poppers out there like the Strike King KVD Splash Jr and the Ark Topwater Popper TP70. There are a few key characteristics to look for when selecting a popper for fall fishing. Look for a bait with good hooks, a feathered rear treble hook, a smaller profile and a subtle rattle.
One of the longest standing fall favorites, the spinnerbait is a great shad imitator. Typically when trying to imitate shad in the fall, you want to go with a bait that has small, silver, willow-leaf blades. The blades flicker as they spin, creating the illusion of a small school of fleeing baitfish. In muddier water, you’ll want to move to a Colorado/willow combo, and gold blades sometimes work better in the lower visibility as well.
But when fishing in fairly clear to green water, a spinnerbait with willow leaf blades and a translucent shad-colored skirt works really well. A bait in the 3/8-ounce range is a good place to start. If you find the bass in the area are keying in on particularly small shad, and not paying your presentation much attention, don’t be afraid to back down to a 1/4-ounce bait with smaller blades.
Lipless crankbait -
A lipless crankbait is one of the best shad imitators ever created. It has the perfect profile for matching the hatch. These baits are widely available, with several different companies offering their own versions which have unique color choices and sound signatures. This bait is also very versatile, giving the angler a lure that can be fished in less than a foot of water or yo-yoed 20 feet below the surface.
Generally speaking, a 1/2-ounce bait is considered the standard size lipless crankbait. These baits work well in the fall, but a 1/4-ounce lipless sometimes works a bit better. Again, matching the hatch doesn’t just have to do the color of the bait and the profile, but also the size. And, in the fall, the shad are often a little smaller. So the 1/4-ounce sometimes reigns supreme.
Soft plastic jerkbait -
Another super versatile bait for fall fishing, the soft plastic jerkbait can be used in a variety of ways to match the hatch. For starters, a weightless Texas rigged soft plastic jerkbait, like the famed Zoom Super Fluke, works well twitched along the surface. But you can also take a smaller soft plastic jerkbait in the 3-inch range and slip it on the back of a scrounger, underspin or Damiki head and use this bait to target fish throughout the water column.
You can dropshot a soft plastic jerkbait as well, or fish one as a trailer on the back of a spinnerbait, vibrating jig or buzzbait. The profile of a soft plastic jerkbait really imitates that of a shad well. With color selections that can be used to resemble shad in all sorts of water clarities and weather conditions, it’s easy to see why a soft plastic jerkbait is a fall favorite.
Rooster Tail -
Going a little old school for this last shad imitator, a rooster tail works really well this time of year. This bait is often forgotten by hardcore bass fisherman, but there is no better bait for fall fishing in certain situations. When fish are schooling, for instance, a Rooster Tail can be a great bait to wake just beneath the surface. The spinning blade creates the same flicker as a spinnerbait, but the smaller profile of this inline lure makes an easier target for bass that are typically keying on smaller baitfish.
The feathered treble on the back also helps create more hookups with the boiling fish that take a swipe at the bait but don’t commit to it fully. It also helps that this bait is fished just below the surface, as opposed to along the surface like a topwater. All of these things come together to make the Rooster Tail a great bait selection whether bass are schooling in less than a foot of water or over a hundred.
If you find yourself fishing around schools of shad this fall, keep these five baits in mind. Poppers are among the better surface baits. Spinnerbaits and Rooster Tails work really well too just beneath the surface. And then lipless crankbaits and soft plastic jerkbaits give you options for the rest of the water column. If you have these five baits on the deck in the fall, you’re already off to a great start.
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