Water temps down and leaves are brown. Fall is finally here and it’s time to target hungry bass bulking up for winter. Most anglers have heard about “matching the hatch,” and in fall this cliche phrase is actually quite relevant. Bait fish such as shad migrate by the thousands into shallow waters during the cooler months and bass follow closely behind. It’s at this moment that small swimbaits are absolutely deadly for landing both numbers and size.
BIGGER BAITS, BIGGER FISH?
Not necessarily. Sometimes it’s actually more productive to scale down your swimbait size since the baitfish are rather small. If you’re fishing competitively, smaller swimbaits will work more efficiently for rounding up a quick limit.
This doesn’t mean you should rule out the big stuff. Crawling a large swimbait around can provide you with huge bites in the fall. This presents the bass with a larger, slow-moving meal that’s perfect for bulking up.
MATCHING THE HATCH
Pay attention to the types of bait fish in your lake. There may be shad, trout, etc. so plan your colors accordingly. This time of year is perfect for any standard “Sexy Shad” or “Chartreuse Shad” colors (many companies will have different names for the same colors). If you’re fishing a larger trout swimbait, try a standard “Rainbow Trout” or “Holdover Trout” pattern for the best luck.
If you’re on a boat you can look for any dead or dying bait on the surface and try to emulate the same pattern. The same can be done for any bait that the bass spits out after being caught. Find ways to get your hands on actual bait from your lake and you’ll know exactly what colors to throw.
FINDING FALL BASS
Baitfish school heavily in shallow creek areas so you can be sure to find bass there as well. You can always start at the back of a creek and fish outwards, slowly working your way to deeper water. This way you give yourself a simple starting point if you’re not sure where to begin, and once you’ve dialed in the average depth of the fish you can apply it time and time again. Be sure to look for any points, ledges, and expansive flats that could possibly hold schools of bait.
Keep an eye out on your electronics for suspending fish as well. Schools of bass will position themselves below enormous balls of bait and can be easily caught on small swimbaits. The depth can range anywhere from 15-25 feet of water depending on where the baitfish are.
CHOOSING AND RIGGING YOUR SWIMBAITS
You’ve located the fish and now it’s time to finally catch one. There are many options to choose from but it depends on your situation. Fishing a top hook swimbait is great for open water but if you’re working through cover a weedless hollow belly swimbait would be better.
Small Swimbait Options
- Keitech Fat Swing Impact 3.8”
- Basstrix Hollow Belly Swimbaits 4-5”
- Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper
- Gambler EZ Swimmer
- Yamamoto Swimming Senko
Large Swimbait Options
- Little Creeper Trash Fish 6”
- Huddleston Deluxe 8”
- Huddleston Deluxe ‘68 Special
- 6th Sense Flow Glider
FISHING YOUR SWIMBAIT PROPERLY
I like to use 12-15lb fluorocarbon line when fishing smaller swimbaits and 17-25lb fluorocarbon for my larger stuff. A 7′-7’6″ medium-heavy rod with fast action will give you enough tip for sensitivity and long casts while having proper backbone for driving the hook properly, especially if the bait is rigged weedless. Any low-profile casting reel with 6:1 or 7:1 gear ratio is perfect.
Give a slow and steady retrieve with a few jerks in between to make your swimbait dark erratically. During the retrieve I like to point my rod at the bait with the rod tip at a downward angle. When setting hook, sweep to the side instead of straight up – it will help you drive the hook more efficiently and land more fish.
If you’re fishing a weedless swimbait through cover, pause for a moment when stuck on grass, then rip it out with a quick jerk of the rod. This will rip your swimbait out of the cover erratically and can draw aggressive strikes.
I also have more confidence with scent on my swimbaits. The natural taste helps bass hold onto the swimbait longer, giving me valuable extra time to set the hook properly. Last thing you want is for the fish to pick up your bait and spit it out immediately.