In fall, the fish are feeding frantically, making it a great time for big fish. Here are five of my favourite fall patterns for largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch and crappies.
1. Largemouth Bass: Football Jigs & Craws
Autumn is football season for largemouth, not only because the fish resemble overinflated pigskins, but because football jigs are often the best way to catch them. In the fall, many of the fish that spent the summer tucked up in the shade of the thickest, gnarliest, out-of-reach jungles of cabbage, coontail and milfoil pull out to scrounge for crayfish on nearby rocky shorelines.
Secondary points lying inside bays and coves are typically the first stop on the fall bass migration toward the main lake, but by Thanksgiving, the primary lead-in points are most worthy of your attention. The slow and steady build up of fish simply gets better and better until ice and snow finally force you to put the boat away for the season.
That largemouth crave crayfish in the fall tells you everything you need to know about why football jigs are so superior. The bulging head does many important things—from imparting a subtle action as you drag it over the stones to adding an attractive skull to your soft-plastic trailer. As well, football jigs roll along with the hook pointed up, which considerably reduces snags without preventing solid hooksets.
I almost always opt more for a Terminator or Freedom Tackle football jig (above) that weighs an eighth to a quarter ounce more than you’d use during summer. Why? Fall largemouth rarely hit your bait as it descends. They’re feeding off the bottom, so you want your jig to sink fast and to maintain contact with the bottom. A slow to moderate bottom-bumping retrieve, with plenty of pauses, is usually ideal, although a heavier head lets you speed up slightly as you search the bottom for fish.
As for trailers, you can tip your jig with a lizard, worm, creature bait, minnow or grub, but why bother when crayfish imitations imitate lobster dinner so well? Some of my favourites are the Trigger X Flappin’ Craw (below), PowerBait Chigger Craw and NetBait Paca Craw.
Remember, this is football not ballet, so leave the spinning gear in the rod locker. I like a seven-foot to 7′ 4″ medium-action rod if it’s on the stiff side, or a medium-heavy-action if it’s limper. And you’ll need a reel with a 6:1 or faster ratio for quickly tackling any bass that picks up a fumble and runs toward the boat trying to score a touchdown. For maximum sensitivity and hooksetting power, spool the reel with 30- to 40-pound braided line and attach a 15- to 17-pound fluorocarbon leader.