5 Fall Fishing Techniques for Bigger Catches

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October 29, 2019

Photo: Fietz Photos Anglers with lines in the water float in small fishing boats with the background golden fall foliage reflected on the lake.

When the weather starts getting a bit cooler, our first instinct is to pack away our gear and sit on the couch for the season. Before you do that, why not think about all the great fishing you’re missing when the water temperatures start to dip. Use these fall fishing techniques to keep those nets full this autumn.

Bass fishing is alive in well in the fall because these cold-blooded beasts are looking to stock up and feed while they still can.

The main problem a lot of anglers have when the weather gets colder is understanding how to catch fish in the cold water. Once you know how the weather affects their habits, you’ll have no problem catching bass and all kinds of fish during the fall and even early winter before the water freezes over.

Here are some of my best tips for catching fish in the fall.

Light takes on an amber shade in a shallow lake shore; green hills rise on the horizon.

Photo: Natalia Kollegova

Take it Shallow

Think about how we fish during the late spring and summer. We tend to prefer fishing in early mornings and late evenings. Why is that?

It’s because those times are when the fish are most active. They’re most active when the water is colder, and they move into shallow water during these time periods. That’s why we troll the shoreline all morning until the sun starts to really hit the water.

An angler in hip deep water casts a line as the sun sets behind him.

Photo: Udo Schroeter

The key to fishing in the fall is understanding that bass will spend a lot more time in shallow water. They’ll spend most of their day around access points, dips, and drop-offs. Bass especially will hang around the points where rivers and streams meet the lake. They’ll sit there all day and feed on the shad and crawfish that plummet into the larger body of water.

If you’re using a fish finder, you want to look for dramatic shifts in the landscape. Bass will hold out around changes in the structure, so you want to look there.

Don’t Ignore Your Topwaters

The immediate assumption for knowledgable anglers is that summer is for topwaters, but you can catch bass using this strategy all year long. If you look out in the water and you still see bass breaking the surface, you know you have a chance.

A hand holds up a spotted bass against a lake background.

Photo: Bled05

Bass by nature, are the bullies of the water. They prefer to pick on other fish that they know they’re stronger than. If they see a baitfish fleeing them, they’ll want to strike it even if they’re not feeding. This strategy is where your topwater lures come into play.

I recommend using a buzz bait because you’re sure to get the bass worked up. These are extremely effective if you notice a school of baitfish near the surface. Ideally, fish along with structure and make sure you’re reeling it slow enough to create a nice trail but fast enough, so you don’t fall beneath the surface. Remember that these baits work best in shallow waters when bass are breaking the surface.

An array of fish lures mounted on horizontal slates.

Smaller lure sizes are critical for fall fishing. Photo: Fanny Schertzer.

Size is Important

The size of your lure is important when the water temperature gets colder. Now we’re talking a little later in the season for most of you. If you’re in the North and you’ve got frost on the ground every morning or maybe even some flurries, you want to pay attention to the size of your lure.

During the summer months, bass are highly active because the water is warmer. They’re cold-blooded, so their metabolism speeds up, and they need to feed more to keep up with it. During this time, the fish will travel further distances, strike at more lures, and be willing to take down an eight-inch crankbait.

An array of about 50 colorful fishing lures on a wooden table.

Photo: Miranda Bleijenberg

When the water temperature cools down, their metabolism slows down, and you need to think accordingly. If the fish have a slower metabolism, it means they’re burning less and moving less. The end result is a more picky fishing situation.

The fish won’t bite at everything that comes their way because they don’t have the energy or the desire. You need to downsize your lures to five inches or less and consider nothing larger than a ½ ounce.

If you can grab their attention and they don’t feel like striking will be too much of a hassle, you’ll have a better chance of catching them.

Color is Important Too

Two vertical columns of colorful plastic fishing worm lures, one for clear water, one for dark water.

Photo: BassGrab.com

For lure color, you want to pay close attention to the quality of the water. If you’re experiencing a lot of snow runoff or excessive rain, the water will be cloudy and muddy. With muddy water, you should use a bright colored lure to increase visibility. During clear water conditions, you can use a more neutral or natural color.

The ultimate goal for catching bass is to aggravate them enough to get them to strike. Bright colors do a great job at working them up enough so they’ll bite.

Slow Down Your Presentation

The theme here is to understand how cold water impacts the movements and habits of the fish. The most important thing to know is that bass and other freshwater fish slow down when the water cools down. This factor means you need to slow down too. You need to adopt a slower presentation with your lures so you can linger long enough to draw the attention of the fish. If you’re presentation is too fast, you’ll be gone before the bass even has a chance to consider you.

A glimpse of an angler in a small boat on a lake taken from between two branches with fall leaves.

Photo: Lukas Bieri

If you’re using a fish finder, try to find a school of baitfish and continue casting in that area. Chances are if you find a school, you’ll find a larger fish hanging around somewhere nearby. If you cast and remain there long enough, you’re sure to work him up enough to merit a strike.

Catch More Fish This Fall

Don’t pack up your gear and call it a year just yet; there’s plenty of great fishing out there. Make sure you bring a few extra layers, a hat, and some gloves with you too.

Remember that a huge part of fishing in the fall is understanding that the fish are much slower when the water is cold. If you’re experiencing freezing temperatures at night, you’ll want to slow down your presentation, fish the shallow waters only, and drop down a few inches on your lures. These tips will help you catch more fish this season. Enjoy!