The month of October has a seductive way of enticing bass anglers to trade in their flipping sticks for shotguns, winterize their bass rigs and start tracking through the open corn fields in search of game birds. Savvy Bass Anglers on the other hand spend their time scanning their fall fishing logs from previous years, reviewing areas with deep water close to shallow flats that were productive on previous fall outings, as the life cycle of our favorite finned quarry rotates into another fall feeding frenzy.
Bassmaster Elite Angler Mark Menendez (www.MarkMenendez.com) suggests several factors signal the fall transitional change. “Cooler nights are actually the beginning to this migratory movement. Shad populations begin heading to the back of creeks and rivers. Usually this area has running water, which in turn means higher oxygen content.”
Menendez, a fisheries biologist, says the ecosystem is in what he refers to as ‘Hyper-Drive’. “These areas will hold enormous amounts of baitfish, add in running water entering the lake or reservoir with large flats and the equation becomes a ‘Bass Bonanza’!”
Del Rio, Texas FLW Tour Pro Angler and Trophy Bass Guide Keith Combs (www.KeithCombsFishing.com) is quick to agree. “On lakes like Falcon, Amistad and Sam Rayburn, I look for the largest flats available. Mark is right on target the flats become bass magnets! I begin my search at the mouth of the creeks and rivers working my way back, always keying in on the baitfish population as well as their location.”
Both professional anglers are quick to point out, “Keeping a watchful eye on your electronics is imperative to locating baitfish balls.” “As the nights get cooler and the days get shorter, these baitfish balls grow bigger and bigger,” says Skeeter/Yamaha National Pro Staffer Mark Menendez. “I’d like to interject something extremely important that many anglers miss,” adds Ranger/Yamaha’s Keith Combs. “Sonar’s will only tell what’s under the water, while the human eye and circling birds can lead you to some of most exciting topwater action available…………..keep looking for surface action, especially in the early stages of the fall transition.”
According to Mark Menendez a five-time Bassmaster Classic Qualifier, “When the Bassmaster Classic’s were held during the fall, everyone of those Classics were won by following the baitfish into the backs of major creeks and rivers!” Although, this sounds simple enough find the baitfish find the bass, there are specific types of cover and structure anglers need to concentrate on to be successful!
“Look for isolated pieces of cover, such as small groups or single downed trees, stumps, and brush piles. When concentrating on structural changes key in on creek channel swings that actually come in contact with the bank.” Menendez adds, “More often than not these channel bends will undercut the banks making for secluded ambush points. While, rocks, docks, old wooden pilings and other washed up debris make them even better.”
“Obviously, water temperature plays a key role in this baitfish scenario,” suggest Keith Combs. “However, one other important factor involved within the movement of baitfish to the backs of creeks, is whether the body of water is a grass lake.”
Combs utilizes Lake Guntersville as a key example. “As long as there is green healthy grass both baitfish and bass will relate to it. As the tops of the grass die-off or become emergent due to the lowering of the lake, baitfish and bass generate to the deeper outside edges.” While, Keith Combs may be concentrating on vegetation as his primary cover, he incorporates Mark Menendez’s creek channel theory.
“Mark’s example of creek channel swings holds true on main lake structure as well. I’ll spend my time concentrating on key grass lines where creek channels swing up against the vegetation developing a steep sudden depth change along outside edges. Here we have cover and shade, with structure changes along a migratory highway!”
Considering water temperature every region throughout the United States has a variance when it comes to the actual temperature degree. However, these professional anglers suggest a simple rule of thumb as a guideline. “Here in Texas the late summer water temperatures range from 85 to over 90 degrees, while water temperatures in the northern regions such as Lake Champlain may have an average of 75 degree water temperature,” says Combs. With that Mark Menendez suggest, “Keeping logs of dropping water temperatures in your area is the best way to follow the seasonal change. However, if anglers utilize a decreasing series of 5-degrees to 10-degrees within their local regions they should be able to establish productive patterns.”
For Kentucky’s Mark Menendez and Texas’s Keith Combs, 75-degree and below range, more often than not signals a change in presentations. “As the shad begin their migratory movement, the bass will follow. But, this doesn’t necessary mean it’s time to start burning baits! advises Combs. “I totally agree,” says Menendez. “The water is still relativity warm and this dictates large baits and slower presentations. I’ll flip a 10’ Strike King Anaconda worm on 20-25lb test line in heavy cover with a Power Tackle Paragon Series Flippin Stick.” Combs flippin arsenal includes; 7’6” Power Tackle Paragon Flippin Rod, 60lb Power Pro Braid, tied to a creature bait paired with a heavy 1-1.25 oz weight. (www.PowerTackle.com)
As the water temperatures continue to fall within the 60-70 degree range, baitfish schools begin to grow larger and larger within the creek flats, as shad move towards the back of the creeks. “This is when anglers need to switch from their vertical presentations to horizontal presentations,” says Menendez. For Mark Menendez and Keith Combs, this is when they turn to Power Tackle Paragon PGC-70 crankbait rods. “No other rod on the market, is so versatile,” says Combs. Both anglers utilize Strike King Lures, Red Eye Shad lipless crankbaits to cover the flats, while Strike King (www.StrikeKing.com) square bill, Series 6, and Series 6XD crankbaits all play a major part in working channel edges. For shallower water Strike King Series 3 and Series 5 crankbaits dissect wood, rocks and of course docks.
Color choices should mimic the baitfish within your area. “Anglers can not go wrong anywhere in the USA when choosing shad patterns, Sexy Shad colors, or white-sided baits such as Gizzard Shad,” suggest Mark Menendez.
As final tips from each Pro, Menendez highly recommends the use of BioEdge 100% (www.BioEdgeFishing.com) fish attractant to increase your hook-up ratio. “The baitfish oil in BioEdge leaves a scented trail in which bass hone in on!” While, Keith Combs says, “The extreme sensitivity, abrasion resistance and invisible factors incorporated in Seaguar ABRAZX Fluorocarbon line was designed specifically for heavy cover, as found in these backwater creek channels!” (www.Seaguar.com)
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