FRANKFORT, Ky. – The orange tint in the tops of mature trees portend what is
coming our way. Cool nights with crisp, gorgeous days signal not only some of
the best days of the year in Kentucky, but also the beginning of the fall
reservoir fishing season for largemouth bass.
September is typically the driest month of the year and the water
in many lakes becomes air-clear. The clear water combined with the lingering
summer thermal stratification of the lake makes predator fish lethargic and
skittish. This leads to tough fishing.
With the cooler night temperatures of October, the top layer of
water in lakes mixes and pushes more dissolved oxygen lower in the water
column. As the weather continues to cool, a bigger swath of water holds good
amounts of dissolved oxygen.
“The quicker it cools off the better,” said John Williams,
Southeastern Fisheries District biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish
and Wildlife Resources. “More dissolved oxygen in the depths makes the fish
active again. Fall is really good for fish.”
The amount of sunlight is a more important barometer of the
beginning of good fall fishing than the amount of heat left in the water. Water
temperatures can vary due to early, long cold snaps, Indian summers and the
like. But, the length of day never varies respective to the time of year. As
fall nights lengthen and days shorten, predator fish feed.
Black bass remain close to their summer haunts until the day
shortens enough to compel them into the shallows. This doesn’t happen as early
as many anglers believe, but it is beginning now.
“The fish should be moving shallower now or very soon,” Williams
Flats become important in October and November for black bass. The
section nearest the channel drop should be probed with a ¼-ounce jig in hues of
brown, orange and green.
A lighter jig looks more realistic, but you’ll need to fish it
more slowly than a heavier jig in early fall. Use a more subtle trailer, such
as a strip of black or brown pork frog or a small crawfish imitation with
pinchers, not flapping appendages.
If you don’t get any strikes on the flat, move to the channel drop
and swim the jig a few feet above it. A swimming retrieve often fools lethargic
bass suspended over the channel drop, a common scenario in early fall.
Gently sloping banks also make great places to swim a jig in early
and mid-fall. Those comprised of mud mixed with gravel or pea gravel are best.
Largemouth bass hold on these banks, often unpressured by anglers. Slowly
retrieving a crawfish-colored crankbait along these banks also draws strikes.
Target main lake points and the points in creek arms nearest the
main lake if flats, channel drops or sloping banks prove fruitless. Largemouth
bass relate to points for the entire fall. Those comprised of mud mixed with
pea gravel, small boulders and shale hold more largemouths.
Crawfish nestle in the crevices in these areas as they prepare to
burrow in the mud to spend winter. A 3/8-ounce crawfish-colored jig works
fantastic on these points. Employ a slow pull and drop retrieve.
Cast onto the point, allow the jig to settle on the bottom, and
gently pull the rod tip up. Allow the jig to slowly fall back to the bottom and
repeat as the jig works deeper down the point.
Largemouths often hit the jig on the fall. If it feels like the
jig landed on a sponge, the line jumps or goes unusually slack, set the hook.
In November as the water temperatures slide toward the mid-60s,
largemouths move to the bank for a week or two. This scenario is a crankbait
angler’s dream as the ability to quickly cover shallow water lends a great
Boat ramps are an overlooked and highly productive spot when bass
nose the banks in fall. Almost all boat ramps have a gouge hole at the end of
them, stemming from water propulsion from the boat motor when trailering a boat.
The flat boat ramp and the gouge hole routinely draw numbers of largemouth bass
at this time of year. Boat ramps are a great early spring spot to try as well.
By Thanksgiving, largemouth bass leave the shallows and suspend
near steeper drops and points where they remain for the winter. Heavy jigs
crawled slowly down the point draw strikes in December. Tail spinners and blade
baits allowed to shimmy down the sides of points pick off largemouths in early
winter as well.
Watching college football or sitting in a tree stand draw many
potential anglers away from lakes in fall. Get and enjoy the great fishing, you
may have the lake practically to yourself.