As the fall progresses, shallow forage becomes less and less abundant. Earlier in the fall, especially on lakes with lots of shad, there’s an exorbitant amount of bait to choose from. And the bass roam around gorging themselves to near busting.
But as the food source is depleted, the predators have to become more strategic and are more opportunistic feeders. They hunker down close to cover so they can pickoff any meal that passes by, not knowing when the next opportunity may come. This is why being able to pick cover apart in the fall is essential.
Select baits that aren’t sticky
Anytime you’re fishing around cover, there’s a risk of getting hung. And since the bass are around cover, you can’t eliminate the risk of getting hung entirely. But you can minimize it. Selecting certain baits that are better suited to fish around cover is a big part of the equation.
Lipless crankbaits and vibrating jigs are baits bass will bite in the fall. But so are squarebills and spinnerbaits. And the latter two are much more snag resistant compared to the first two. So, if you’re going to be fishing around stumps and through laydowns for example, you’re much better off doing so with a spinnerbait, leaving the lipless for the open water.
Orient yourself to cover properly
How you bring your bait by cover is another critical thing to consider when trying to avoid snags. The bass are again holding tight to the cover, so you’ll need your bait to do the same. But casting a squarebill across a shallow laydown with a bunch of limbs means your bait has to travel across a lot more wood, creating several unnecessary opportunities for the two dangling treble hooks to snag cover.
Instead, when possible, it’s far more effective to position yourself at the end of the laydown for example. Then you can cast your sqaurebill up to the base of the tree and reel it down the log and then over a few limbs instead of across the whole treetop, all the while keeping your bait close to the cover.
Make multiple casts
As the water temps continue to cool, bass become more lethargic and slower to respond. This means that moving baits like squarebills and spinnerbaits may require repetitive casts to draw a strike from a bass. Though the fish are opportunistic this time of year, wanting to eat anytime food is present, they may not be able to get to a lure before it is gone on the first cast.
So, if you come across a particularly attractive looking piece of cover, make sure you make repetitive casts to it. The second, third or even fourth cast can often reach pay dirt. And if you get a couple of bites this way, it can clue you in on a pattern where you can repeat this process and get bit all day.
Change to a slower moving bait
Another great way to lure those more sluggish bass into biting is to change over to a slower moving bait. Because bass can be a little more spread out in the fall, opting for a moving bait when possible, allows you to cover more water. But as the water continues to cool and bass become more lethargic, swapping over to a slow-moving bait like a flipping jig may be necessary to unlock their lips.
Flipping a jig around shallow cover gives the bass a slow-moving target to hone in on. Be sure to let the bait sit for a few seconds and then work it slowly, not pulling it away from the cover too quickly. If the bass are a little more aggressive, they’ll usually hit it on the initial fall. But if they are a little more hesitant, working the bait slowly along the cover will often do the trick.
Picking cover apart is one of the best ways to get bit as fall fades into winter. Whether fishing a long grass line or pitching to one isolated stick on a shallow flat, there are certain things you can do to increase your chances of getting bit while also minimizing the risks of getting hung.
Choose lures that are as weedless as possible, make sure you line up your cast so that your bait doesn’t have to traverse any more of the cover than necessary and then be sure you’re giving the bass enough time and opportunities to find your bait. And don’t get discouraged if you do get hung occasionally. If you’re not getting hung every now and then, you’re not throwing where the fish are.