How to Find Autumn Bass
As the name suggests, I will do my best to give you an insight as to how I go about finding autumn bass. To do this I will go through some of my personal methodology used to find them and the baits and techniques I use to catch them.
Many of us have read the US articles of “fishing in the fall”. Often great explanations of the migration of “shad” into the backs of creeks and coves and how bass follow them. War stories of how they will eat any bait thrown at them in any size or colour. For us mere mortals it is seldom that we experience such frenzies, but I can assure you it is possible. As our South African conditions are different, dams are smaller, baitfish are different, my experiences are slightly different albeit that a bass act instinctively.
Without stating the obvious, autumn follows summer. Summer fishing is tough, hot days, high water temperatures with low slow fishing, ledge fishing and dragging big baits in deeper water. When the first autumn cold fronts come through the water starts to cool. This is not a rapid process and does not occur to any great depth at all, due to the fronts not bringing winter level temperatures. The shallows cool down first and also heat up again faster in the day. In summer the fish hang out deeper during the day, in cooler waters with more suitable oxygen levels. They tend to come shallower at night as the water cools slightly and the wind adds oxygen. When autumn arrives, and the water cools the bass move up to the shallows and stay for longer and longer periods. The days become shorter as does the suns exposure to the water.
The bait fish, in my opinion, are mostly always shallow especially in impoundments with abundance of shoreline cover. In mid to late summer it is common place to see baitfish being crushed in the shallows by hungry bass with high metabolisms. As the water cools and holds more oxygen these periods of attack last longer and aren’t always confined to night time and early mornings. Baitfish are subjected to longer periods of attack. The bass feed up until the water gets really cold, their metabolism slows and they retreat to their winter haunts.
The strategy for finding them is therefore to find the “highways” used to get from their deep lairs to the shallower feeding grounds. Theses highways are river and drainage channels leading up to shallow flats. The same deep river ledges that they hang out in summer but further up towards their sources, in the bays, where they narrow down and become shallower. They also make use of long gradual main and secondary points that protrude out to these channels or deeper ledges.
Careful use of electronics to identify schools of bait fish and suitable cover/structure for bass to stage on is critical. Once the bait fish are located it is important to follow their movements as the bass won’t be far behind them. As water temperature change the fish will move and it is important to keep up. The second and easier method of locating the bass is using your eyes and ears. Look for surface eruptions and bait fish been smashed or driven up to the surface. Bird activity and other anglers getting in on the action are other obvious ways of finding the fish.
Autumn is interspersed with cold fronts which may cause a halt to the bass and bait fish’s movements. They don’t