Fall Transition Bass – Where Do Bass Go?

When Mother Nature takes her brush and paints the leaves on our trees orange, yellow and brown. When Friday night and Saturday afternoons are spent cheering on your favorite high school or college football team. When the air temp gets a little cooler at night and not nearly as high at mid-day. When the water temps in the upper regions of the lake begins to turn downward, it’s a signal that “Fall Transition” bass fishing is getting ready to “CRANK UP”!

Over the next several paragraphs within this article, it is my intention to share with you some of the techniques and patterns that I look for during this time of the year. There is one thing you must keep in mind concerning “Season Change”.

It doesn’t always mean that there will be a hungry bass next to every log, under every boat house, hiding in every weed bed or suspended off every creek channel point. But under normal circumstances it does mean this…Largemouth will almost always repeat the same migration routes that they used in the spring. If you will stop right there, and think about that for a moment it will give you some real insight where you can begin your search for Fall Transition Bass. Let’s examine this fact a little further.

Where Do You Begin?

It has been my experience over the years that bass will travel in the Fall right back to the same areas that I found them in during the spring spawning season. I begin to search out creeks and pockets in the upper region of the lake that has a lot of cover and where fresh water runs into the creek. This is an important fact that many beginning bass fishermen either overlook or don’t understand completely. Remember “Spawn” and “Fall Transition” bass patterns will always appear nearer where the river comes in verses areas nearer the dam. The larger the body of water the truer this fact becomes.

If weather patterns are normal, the fall season will bring us rain and falling temps. Fall also will bring “Cold Fronts” that we will talk more about later. Influx of fresh water will almost always result in greater oxygen levels, a greater shad population within the creeks, which in turn results in bass following the shad into these areas. Let’s talk a little bit about creeks.

Concentrate on Creeks In the Fall

As I stated earlier I like to concentrate on major creeks toward the head of the river first before in I attack small creeks, ditches and mid lake creeks. I like creeks that have plenty of cover. Creeks that are laden with lay down timber along the bank. Creeks with stump rows, chunk rock, sunken brush around boat docks and when possible grass and other aquatic weeds. I like creeks that have arms that provide multiple points. The ideal creek would be one where this structure is close to the dominate channel.

The reason for being close to the channel is four fold (1) Most of your major reservoir creek channels will have “Current” (2) Current means “Oxygen” (3) Current means “Food” “Shad & Bait Fish” (4) And “Deeper Water Access” .

If the creek that I have chosen is a big creek, that is wide at it’s mouth I always by pass the first portion and head straight toward the back where the creek narrows at it’s source and the channel is more defined. There is three reason for this (1) If a good shad population is present-it is much easier to stay on the bait, which is a vital link in being successful (2) Your chance of being closer to the creek current is much greater, which will help you take advantage of the structure that is available. (3) If your area should happen to experience a substantial rain, the influx of this dingier water many times will ignite bass into feeding frenzies.

Source: youtube.com

To help you locate creeks and areas like we have discussed above you can use (1) a good topographical lake map (2) GPS with Maps capabilities (3) your electronics or (4) LUCK……I think I’ll try the first three. If you’re serious about being successful on the water you have to do your home work.

What About Fall Cold Fronts And Water Temp’s

In many respects we bass fishermen are a lot like the bass we pursue. For several months now everything has been more or less the same. It may been hot-but it’s been “Consistently Hot” We learned to adapt to that and so did the fish. The bass found the right depth that provide them with the thermo cline and oxygen that they needed. If you worked at it, you were rewarded by catching bass in a fairly unchanging pattern. But now change is in the air. Even as I write this article-day time temps are reaching the low 80’s but instead of those 70 degree nights we were experiencing just a few weeks ago the norm is now the high 40’s to mid 50’s.

Just like you and I feel the temperature change and begin to reach for that sweat shirt or light jacket in the mornings the bass feel it to. Their metabolism and activity levels will begin to slow as we headintothelatefall-earlywintertimeframe. AmI painting a picture of “Gloom & Doom” for Fall bass fishing? No, not at all. I’m convinced that everything that I have outlined above can have a “GREATER” effect on the fisherman than it does the bass they say they want to catch. This time of the year it becomes a preparation and mental game. You have to be willing and able to adjust to these changes around you. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say your lake has experienced several days of cloudy conditions and then a moderately severe cold front comes through and you’re left with no clouds and only blue bird skies. What do you do? Pack up and go home? Watch football instead of fish? Not me! I stick with my creek game plan and work even more closely to the cover nearest the channel and slow my lure presentation down.

Source: michigan.org

But let me also add that in lakes like my home lake Old Hickory in Nashville Tennessee a two or three degree drop in the surface temperature will have little to no effect on shallow fish. Those in 4 feet of water or less. But if the sudden drop is greater than three degrees it can have a negative effect. This again enforces that fact that you need to know your creeks and where structure is close to the deeper channel areas that has moving water or current so that you can adjust accordingly.

I guess the worst conditions would be if you experienced a drastic temperature drop that was accompanied by heavy cold rains that elevated the lake level. This cold water instead of pulling shad and baitfish up into the backs of the creek will push them out instead. My suggestion at that point would be to begin to move out further and further in the creek to try to find some stability in water temperature and shad activity.

And there are times when you just have to let these situations pass and let the lake settle back down. I’ve had days in the Fall that were unbelievable in numbers and quality of fish. And then I’ve had days that I had to remind myself to stick to what I preach and be slow and methodical in my approach and my lure selection. Which brings us to lures for the Fall season.

Fall Lure Selection

It will come as no surprise that my first choice for fishing the Fall transition period is a “Small Crank bait”. I like crank baits in 1/16th 1/8th and 1/2 ounce sizes that are no more than 2 1/2 inches long. I like those that run 2 feet to 12 feet deep-some with bills and some lipless.

One of the very first thoughts that enter the mind of many fisherman when I talk about these small baits is that the only catch small fish. If that’s what you’re thinking let me put it to you this way. “You Sir Are Dead Wrong!” Time and time again through out the fall and early winter months I have caught lunker size Largemouth, Smallmouth and Spots on small crank baits.

Icrank baits like to use the Luhr-Jensen Speed Traps and a local favorite, the Buckeye Shad as my crank baits of choice. There are some distinct differences between these two types of baits that I need to explain. The Speed Trap (left) as your can see has a bill and are fairly wide bodied floating baits which have rattles inserted inside.

Source: farmersalmanac.com

The wobble of the baits are wider and therefore moves more water. You also have the ability to stop these baits in mid-retrieve and they will slowly float back up toward the surface.

This technique many times is very deadly in the Fall. The Buckeye Shad (right) on the other hand is a thinner bait that doesn’t float or have a rattle and has a very tight wobble. I’m convinced that just like in the early Spring, there are times that bass just don’t want a bait that rattles.

I can’t always explain the why, but I have experienced this to be true many times. I also like to stay with at least 2 different shad colors and a chartreuse or fire tiger combination in that fall.

One of the reasons I like to use these types of baits is that you can drop your trolling motor and cover water. Lakes like Old Hickory tend to always have color in the water so I try to stay in a shallow pattern as much as possible covering the structure nearest to the channel current. I like throwing these small baits on a AllPro APX 7 foot Medium action spinning rod with 6lb and 8lb test line and always use a good snap which I believe helps give these crank baits additional action.

There are times that even with bait spinnerbaitsfish present the bass seem reluctant to hit a crank bait, or after you have caught several in one area the bite slows down. This is when I pick up a rod rigged with a Secret Weapon Spinner bait. If the bass have been in the cover I will continue to run my spinner bait through the limbs and then just it die in opening, or next to stumps or brush piles. I believe this is where the Secret Weapon really shines.

Both blades on these baits will helicopter down with equal freedom which isn’t true with most spinner baits on the market today. If the fish have been on the outside edge of the brush I make repeated cast in every direction to make sure that all sides of the cover have been fished. I like to use the 3/8oz willow leaf model with sliver blades with either a blue/chartreuse, white/chartreuse or a translucent skirt with silver metal flakes.


I can’t emphasis enough the importance of staying in the creeks and on the bait fish during the Fall transition period. Your chances of loading the boat or having a very few strikes almost always hinges on the presence of shad in the areas your fishing. As Fall begins to give way to early winter and the water temperatures lowers even more I begin to work my way back out further and further toward the mouth of the creeks until the water temperatures reach 50 degrees then it’s winter fishing time and everything changes again. But that’s another article and another story. I wish you the best in this Fall season….Good Luck and be safe.