Targeting open-water season-ending largemouth and smallmouth bass

Right now is an excellent timeframe (following turnover) to catch trophy bass. In fall, I like to imagine that we’re almost chasing a different species of fish as these monsters emerge deep to shallow water.

But there’s nothing mystical about what’s in play here: Mature fish are targeting plentiful food sources. My biggest bass ever came a few years back from 1.5 feet of water. That bass had found a productive food source and didn’t care that he was swimming in 18 inches of water.

Some prime pre-ice locations include green weeds, inside turns, docks, and points running into deeper water – and combinations of all of the above. Got rocks scattered in there, too? All the better.

Expect some negative fishing days post-turnover, but the action other days can be unbelievable. Just don’t expect dynamite angling every day during this jaw-dropper fishing period.

Some anglers focus strictly on green weeds and avoid dying vegetation because of the misnomer that dead weeds produce a gas that repels fish. That’s untrue. I’ve caught lots of bass in dead weed growth, especially late open-water season, because bass are finding food in these locations.

As for tackle, the all-American spinner bait remains a productive, go-to lure in fall. You can’t go wrong casting crankbaits, and plastics like Texas rigs, wacky worms, and jig worms should remain in your arsenals.

Bass aren’t “fattening up for winter” but simply taking advantage of the end-of-season ample food source specials. And we don’t need huge baits in the fall. Recently on the Mississippi River, I was catching bass on No. 4 Shad Raps. The bottom line: Be willing to work with different sizes and retrieves. Be versatile.

That goes for casting, too. Vary the angle of your casts; don’t just keep casting out and back. Fish will reposition themselves based on currents and even the angle of the sun. Work deep and shallow water depths thoroughly.

And slow down. A common lament I hear across the fishing industry is that anglers are working too fast. Slow down for all species of fish, vary your retrieve, and try some dead-sticking.

Finally, line and rod selection are big factors. Default to a sensitive rod. Some bass bites can be so soft that, without light tackle, we won’t know we had a fish. Sometimes I don’t even feel a tick when a light-biter “strikes.”

Good luck!

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