If you’re not out on the water frequently in the fall, you may miss the changes that occur as they occur, yet find on your next outing that the lake is quite different than it was on your previous visit weeks before. If you fish a lot you’ll probably observe some of the things that happen, and notice that fishing may be poor for a short while during the turnover, but quite good afterward.
We’ll focus here on what the fishing implications are.
The time sequence for fall turnover varies geographically, occurring later the further south one goes. Where there are lakes relatively near each other, fishing in one can be much better or much worse than in another. Since fishing is often poor during the turnover, if you have options as to where to fish, try to determine what the status is of those places you could visit. Biologists from regional state fisheries offices, and workers at local boat docks and tackle shops, are a good source of information.
Once things have stabilized, the aftermath of fall turnover is improved fishing. Baitfish activity can be stimulated as the result of nutrient or plankton dispersal, and many fish, bass in particular, will be shallower. This is especially significant in large southerly lakes, whose surface temperatures were very warm during the summer but are now cooling down. With the shallows cooling, fish move into areas where greater numbers of them are more accessible to anglers.
Combine this with an increase in baitfish activity, the need for fish to feed well before the pending winter season, and a greater likelihood that fish will be active throughout the day (due to less potent sunlight), and there’s good reason to be on the water after the lake has turned.
In fact, this can be an excellent time to catch big bass.
Go Natural and Bigger
Simply rushing into the shallows – the same places that you fished in spring – is not a guarantee for bass success. Nor is fishing any available shallow cover, although cover near deep water, especially if it is fairly abundant or thick, is particularly worthwhile.
In many instances, the water in lakes becomes clearer after the fall turnover, so when selecting lures, consider a natural-looking appearance. Plug patterns that look like shad (or alewife or shiner), bluegill, yellow perch, or crayfish, depending on the environment, are good bets rather than those that are more exotic.
With baitfish generally large in size, this is a good time to fish larger size lures. Unless you’re also angling for panfish, try plugs that are one-third to a half-ounce in size, and minnow plugs that are 4 to 6 inches long rather than smaller. Floating-diving minnow-bodied plugs make good surface lures, especially for morning fishing, and suspending models are good for subsurface stop-and-go twitching. Popping or chugging surface plugs are likewise good, especially in lakes with lots of baitfish activity. Bass may load up on schools of shad, sometimes on weedy flats; then, a quick-working, water-spitting surface plug produces marvelous strikes.
Think Crankbaits and Jigs
While spinnerbaits that are slow-rolled over objects or dropped along deeper edges of cover may be productive at this time, I prefer crankbaits and jigs. Try a jig-and-pork where the bank is steep, especially if it has rocks or riprap, and pitch it along shorelines that have logs and treetops near deeper water.
Don’t forget points or overlook deeper water when things have not stabilized, since fish may be roaming. Trolling is a good bet if fish are scattered, though many anglers don’t try it.
A final benefit to fishing now: markedly fewer, water skiers, pleasure boaters, and personal watercraft users. Even on those delightful Indian summer days.