By Luke Stoner
Fall bass fishing is synonymous with power fishing: Topwaters, crankbaits and spinnerbaits will be many anglers’ first choice throughout the season. While these are certainly suitable options, there are several other lures that’ll help you catch bass this fall.
Thinking outside the box and opting for these overlooked hard baits can get you bites where other anglers are only seeing activity.
An often ignored lure for shallow water autumn bass is a smaller-than-usual lipless crankbait. 1/2-ounce and 3/4-ounce Rat-L-Traps, Red Eye Shads and other lipless plugs are go-to lures for anglers across the country in the fall but many folks forget about their smaller 1/4-ounce running mate. Baitfish are notoriously small throughout the fall months and these tiny lipless baits do an excellent job of mimicking this forage.
More than being the right size, a lighter lipless crankbait is better suited for probing shallow depths in which bass are targeting shad and other baitfish. The lighter lure is less obtrusive in skinny water and can be fished around a myriad of cover types.
About a month ago I fished a tournament on the lake I live on and had my tail kicked by a couple anglers using this exact technique in the very backs of creeks where they found schools of bait. I took note and have had several successful days on the water since following this protocol.
There is nothing fancy about this presentation whatsoever—simply locate baitfish congregating around shallow cover, cast your lipless plug and slowly reel it in, bumping the bottom as you go. A 1/4-ounce lipless can be fished in the same areas anglers use more traditional fall offerings like topwaters, spinnerbaits and squarebills but it shows pressured bass something different. Which can mean the difference between seeing lots of bass in your fishing area, and putting those bass in the boat.
Many anglers reach for their favorite topwater or squarebill crankbait during the fall months, but wakebaits are often left out of the conversation somehow. Wakebaits come in all shapes and sizes; from big, jointed options to small plugs that resemble traditional crankbaits. They dive anywhere from a foot deep to merely inches below the surface, depending on line size and rod angle, and are an excellent bait choice when bass won’t commit to a topwater.
I grew up in central Illinois where a Mann’s Baby 1-Minus was an extremely popular shallow-diving crankbait/wakebait. Over the years I’ve found myself throwing this wakebait less and less, until a recent fall fishing outing where I was reminded of the fish-catching prowess this little lure possesses.
Two weeks ago I volunteered my time as a high school fishing boat captain and took a couple young anglers out on a local Oklahoma fishery. The bass were feeding on shad in dirt-shallow water in the backs of creeks but they didn’t want to eat a topwater. We were having a hard time finding a lure they’d react to that wouldn’t snag limbs, leaves and other debris in the ultra-shallow water.
I tied on an old Mann’s Baby 1-minus for one of the anglers and it performed perfectly in this scenario. The youngsters caught several good fish, easily kept the lure out of snags, and kept me busy with the net. You can fish the Baby 1-Minus and other wakebaits around or over any type of cover and in practically any water clarity. Wakebaits are perfect for fishing around shallow grass, rocks, laydowns or other types of shallow structure in a scenario where bass are keying in on baitfish.
Floating jerkbaits are another fantastic option for fall bass that don’t get the attention they deserve. The two I’ve had the most success with recently is the Rapala Orignal Floating Minnow and the Shadow Rap Shad. A Rapala Original Floating Minnow has been catching bass since before I was born and is still a proven fish-catcher to this day.
Floating jerkbaits can be twitched slowly on the surface or jerked to deeper depths before their buoyancy forces them upwards. Bass spend a lot of their time looking up at baitfish this time of year and a floating jerkbait appears to be fleeing from the fish hiding below, igniting a predatory response bass can hardly resist. Like suspending jerkbaits, floaters need to be seen by bass to get them to react and are therefore best suited for clear to slightly stained water.
There are a plethora of floating jerkbaits on the market today and they all catch fish, but it’s hard to beat a No. 9 or No. 11 Original Floating Minnow. Since the Floating Minnow is made from balsa, I typically fish it on a spinning rod to make casting the lightweight lure a little easier.
Topwaters and soft-plastic jerkbaits are two of my favorite fall fishing lures, but there are days it seems bass will merely swipe at these offerings. Floating jerkbaits excel in this particular scenario. With two to three treble hooks dangling off their slender body, floating jerkbaits will typically get at least one hook in a fish that swipes at the bait.
Bass all throughout the country are moving shallow and voraciously feeding right now to fatten up for the colder, more dormant winter months. These three hard baits are terrific options to add to your bass fishing repertoire and will help you have some unforgettable days of fishing this fall. Head towards the backs of the creeks on your favorite local fishery, find schools of baitfish, follow the wind and enjoy the madness many anglers are missing out on.