Gone Fishin' - Oct. 13, 1997

October 13, 1997                                                                   By Charlie Taylor

It appears that Fall will finally be upon us next week, as the days are predicted to be cool and crisp, while the nights will be close to the freezing range. This will lead to all manner of typical Fall activities. Lots of people will be heading for the mountains to watch the leaves in their Autumn finery, while others will be out and about, checking out deer trails and turkey sign, anticipating the Fall hunting season. Still others will be readying gear for the Fall striper season. This is truly a season of plenty, with something for everyone.

We are entering the season of the year where fish are very aggressive, actively feeding heavily in order to store up the fat necessary to carry them through the cold weather ahead and to help nourish the eggs that will replenish the species in the Spring. As the weather continues cool and crisp, the water temperatures will cool. This, combined with the lessening of sunlight, cause the fish to begin to feed heavily. Since most of the fish have been orienting to vegetation during the summer, they are still in the vicinity of the vegetation. Until the water temperature starts dropping dramatically, the vegetation will continue to be green and healthy. This means that the fish will continue to use the vegetation to forage and hide. As the water temperature drops, however, the fish will begin to move out from the vegetation to the closest available structure.

Since the fish are foraging in the grass and lily pads, they are active. Active fish can be fooled very easily by reaction type baits. This is where the topwater lure and the crankbait shine. The first cast around vegetation should always be made with a topwater lure. Whether your preference is Pop-R, Tiny Torpedo, Devil's Horse, Rapala Minnow, Zara Spook, buzz bait, Crippled Killer or a soft jerk bait, cast it out and allow the fish to come up and get it. Keep in mind that topwaters are like all other types of baits, in that you must determine what the fish want on any given day. Start off working the baits at a medium speed. If no strikes are evident, speed up or slow down the retrieve. Once you have determined the proper speed to fish the lures, load the boat.

If, after a suitable period of fishing topwater lures at various speeds and kinds of retrieves, it is time to switch to other lures. The next selection during this season should be a crankbait. Start by casting a Mann's Baby One Minus into the grass or lily pads and bring it back with a steady retrieve. After a few casts, shift the speed of retrieve for a few casts. Next, use a stop and go retrieve for a few casts. If all of these fail to produce fish, move to the outside edges of the vegetation and cast parallel to the edge of the grass or lily pads. Repeat the sequence of casts and have confidence in the results. If this bait does not entice the fish, switch to a deeper diving crankbait, perhaps a Bomber 2A. This bait will dive a little deeper and maybe this is all the fish need.

Once this bait has been given a fair chance without results, it is time to move back into the grass or lily pads and fish a small plastic worm or jig 'n pig. This writer prefers an electric blue/fire tail, four inch ring worm with a 1/16 oz. sinker for probing the vegetation. While bass are the quarry, small forage fish must be present in order for the bass to be there. The fire tail on the worm attracts lots of attention from forage fish and that activity frequently attracts bass.

If results are not forthcoming with a worm or jig 'n pig, then consider moving to the closest dropoff or point. This alternate structure should be given every chance to produce before giving up on catching fish in that area. Work the dropoff or point with topwater lures first and then cover the area with deep-diving crankbaits. Failing with these baits, work the structure thoroughly with a Carolina-rigged plastic worm.

Only by following this type of regimen can we consider that the fish are not there or that they are not biting at any given time. Be patient and persistent. The bass are going to be there. It is just a matter of finding the bait or baits that they will take at the time.

Good fishin'....