Lafayette, LA – No matter where they target bass, the fall transition period can be a difficult one for anglers ranging from beginners to pros. “The temperature is falling, the winds pick up and bait is on the move, so it’s little wonder there are some tough days this time of year,” says SRD20 affiliate, Jackson Perry. “I’ll tell you what, though; find the bait and you’ll find the fish just like any other time of year.”
That may be true, but where do you start? Perry suggests keying on shad if they are available. “Fall offers the chance for your biggest bass of the year,” says the 26-year-old winner of the Cabela’s Big Bass Tour event held on the Mississippi River in La Crosse, WI, back in August. Unlike traditional bass fishing tournaments where anglers weigh in five bass at the end of each day, this format provides the opportunity to win multiple daily payouts during seven hourly weigh-ins that pay ten cash payouts each. That’s 210 hourly cash payouts over the three-day events – with the angler entering the largest bass overall taking home the Grand Prize of a brand new, fully rigged Nitro Z18 powered by Mercury® 150HP valued at $52,000. Perry weighed the two largest bass at the event.
“That really was a breakthrough performance for me,” says Perry, who admits it’s taken some time to grow familiar with his new settings after moving to Wisconsin from Kentucky two years ago. “One thing that has really helped me find the fish in these new waters has been making sure to key on the bait – and I think that becomes even more important than ever as the bass transition from their late summer haunts to their fall hangouts. While this time of year can sometimes be frustrating, fall is when the biggest bags get weighed on the Mississippi, and in most areas I’ve fished over the years. The bass now are super-healthy as they bulk up for winter and they can really pack on a lot of weight. Especially in the north, fall is your chance to catch a true giant.”
According to Perry, bass in most waters by this point are intent on bulking-up for the long winter ahead, and that usually means they’ll be keying on larger baitfish. Shad, where available, are the primary target for the biggest bass this time of year, he believes, although some fish will continue to prey on crayfish, too. The important thing to remember, he suggests, looking for baitfish that are either holding around structure or pocketed in areas of current.
“The point to keep in mind is that the baitfish are transitioning, too,” advises Perry. “Fall shad are considerably larger than they were back in the summer, so they need more water to live. Rather than holding on shallow flats in lakes or tight to the bottom in deeper river pockets, as they might in summer, they are moving to more open water and greater depths. That means you may have to search a lot to pin them down – but it’s worth the effort. Having side-imaging electronics really helps pick out submerged bait schools. If you don’t have electronics look for areas where riffles give away sand bars and cast to the back where the water drops off.”
Perry’s idea of the perfect river habitat to fish on big bait in the fall is an area with a lot of current running over a sand drop with a deep hole on the backside. Under those conditions, he’s throwing a lipless crankbait, such as a Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap®, as far up onto the flat as possible before bringing it off the edge where the sand drops into the deep hole. It’s right on the slope, he says, that the strikes usually happen.
“I really like Rat-L-Traps because they let me cover a lot of water quickly at various depths, and they come through the weeds pretty good, too” reveals Perry. “Depending on the conditions and mood of the fish, I might also toss a Carolina rig, a ChatterBait®, or a swim jig if I suspect the bass are still feeding on craws.”
Of course, every day is a little different during the fall. One day the bass want the lure moving slowly toward the surface and the next it might be a straight retrieve that does the trick – so keep experimenting and let the fish tell you what they really want.
When casting around big fall baits Perry favors a 7’10” medium-heavy custom composite rod built by Kistler Rods. He spools up with 14-pound-test Suffix Advanced Fluorocarbon line on a Shimano Metanium 7:1 gear ratio casting reel. The long rod, he notes, allows for far casts so he can keep the boat away from his quarry.
“Fall fish are skittish fish and they don’t want to feel the boat at all,” he reveals. “I always throw my lipless crankbaits with a composite rod that has a lot of parabolic bend because these lures carry treble hooks that require both significant power to drive the points home and some give in the stick to keep the fish buttoned up on the way to the boat. The 14-pound-test fluorocarbon line also provides plenty of power when setting the hook. With this setup, I don’t drop many fish.”
Like most bassin’ sharpies, Perry is particular about keeping his tackle and gear in tip-top shape, and the same goes for his boat. “A clean boat is a confident boat,” he states, “and SRD20 products are what I use to keep mine looking sharp. From their Pink Boat Soap to Graphene Ceramic Spray Coating and Protectant, Waterless Wash & Wax, and Vinyl Protectant, I’ve been impressed with their ease of use and effectiveness.”
The first thing Perry noticed when he tried SRD20’s popular Pink Boat Soap, was how the calcium scum line came right off the hull with little labor. “I also like their Graphene Ceramic Spray Coating and Protectant,” continues Perry. “It has an unobtrusive glossy finish that doesn’t streak. Some competing products I’ve used streaked heavily around the motor cowlings. SRD20 has been a real game-changer for me in that regard. If you are going to hold up a big fish for the camera, you want to do it in a great-looking boat!”