As summer slowly fades away and the sun disappears slightly sooner everyday, we as bass anglers begin to wait in anticipation at the bass feeding frenzy that lies ahead in the coming months. Autumn as it is known in South Africa can be one of the most rewarding times of the year, but preparation and versatility is the key. Never in any season will you find yourself catching bass on such a variety of baits, yet no one bait will be a consistent producer throughout the day. All creatures begin to follow seasonal migration patterns at this time of year and so do bass, moving from their deeper summer haunts to shallower waters to feed before locating to their deeper, more stable winter habitat. Bass will begin to follow seasonal migration routes along contour structure such as main creek channels or river channels early in the season before moving into shallower flats. Yet not all bass will move into shallow flats at the same time during their migration, often you will find bass relating to main river channels or channel bends on their way to shallower water. Many anglers underestimate what shallow is to bass which have been holding in 20-30 feet of water all summer long. Early on in the season bass will relate to deeper transitional structure before moving into shallower weed flats as the season progresses.
To locate bass on transitional structure, begin by fishing channels and points casting towards the shoreline and fishing progressively shallower towards flats or the back of a bay until you find the strike zone in a given area. Bass often hunt in groups, so start with baits with which you can cover a lot of water quickly, such as crankbaits and spinnerbaits, and when the bite slows down work the area more thoroughly with soft plastics or a jig and pig presentation to pick up lethargic bass. When moving into the shallows the options you have are endless. In the early morning and late afternoon a great topwater bite can be expected, with the trusted baits such as Zara Spooks and Chug Bugs being good producers; bass will also move into the shallows earlier on in the day and remain there for longer periods.
As the sun begins to rise don’t hesitate to fish a frog over matted weeds or in thick brush, as bass will move in and out of cover to feed all day. Another good technique is to fish plastics such as lizards and big curly tail worms or grubs using an aggressive stop and go retrieve, as most bass will be in an aggressive feeding mood so there is no need for a subtle presentation. Hopping a plastic worm in and out of holes in weed mats is a great method of catching bass when the baitfish are holding tight to cover around midday. Never ignore lipless crankbaits when fishing the shallows - cast parallel to the weedline to catch bass hunting along the outside weedline because bass will use the weedline as transitional structure as they move into the shallows, or fish it in the grass, aggressively ripping the bait free when it becomes hung up to trigger aggressive reaction bites.The most integral factor in developing a pattern in autumn is matching the hatch or forage in a body of water. When choosing a bait colour and size, imitate the major forage the bass will be feeding on. This might sound like a simple philosophy but this season’s baitfish spawn have grown into fingerling sized appetisers for the bass, and will begin to move away from shoreline structure to more open water. While on the water look for the tell tale signs of schooling baitfish such as cormorants or other water birds actively feeding, or baitfish crashing on the surface, and the bass are sure to follow.
If a pattern becomes evident on the structure on one side of the dam you’re fishing, it is most likely this pattern will ensue on the opposite banks allowing you to reproduce the same results on various trips throughout the season, weather permitting of course. Mild cold fronts however, will not affect the fish that drastically in autumn, as the water temperature will not drop sharply and bass will usually recover in a day or two, whereas under severe post frontal conditions fish will take a few days to even up to a week to recover from inclement weather systems.
- In autumn try different depths, fishing from the depths to shallower water until you find where the fish are holding.
- In post frontal conditions speed up your retrieve, fishing fast moving baits such as spinnerbaits, crankbaits and jerkbaits.
- Pay attention to water temperatures in late autumn; bass will still hit topwaters even when we think it’s too cold.