Bob Jensen: Landing the big fish in the fall

Bob Jensen
Ames Tribune

It feels like the autumn season has arrived, and fall fishing offers variety, solitude, spectacular landscapes and a chance for two types of fishing action. You can chase lots of fish of average size or you can focus on catching a truly big fish. If you decide that you want to go the big fish route, you’ll want to go about it differently than if you just want to get bit.

An important consideration, probably the most important, is choosing a body of water. Some lakes are big fish lakes; others are numbers waters. If you want to concentrate on catching a really big one, you need to be on water that has a history of producing big ones. Trophy walleyes, northern pike and muskies typically come from bodies of water that are deep and clear and have oily baitfish like smelt or tullibee that make fish grow big.

Bodies of water that grow big largemouth bass often have a good amount of shallow water cover, which is where many bass spend the summer. As that shallow-water vegetation thins in the fall, the big fish gather on points or pockets on the weedline and are quite accessible.

Keep in mind that in the fall, fish want to eat. If you can find the fish you can expect them to eat at sometime during the day or night. If you see what you believe are walleyes on deeper structure, drop them a line. If they don’t eat in a little while, find another school and see if they’ll eat. But remember to try that earlier school again later in the day. Keep revisiting them, because eventually they’ll take your bait.

This is where sonar and GPS become so valuable. They’ll save you time in locating fish and then maybe re-locating them later. If the sonar shows fish on structure, we’ll try to catch them. If they don’t bite, we mark their location on the GPS and come back later in the day. The fish may have moved a little, but if you’ve marked their previous location, they’re usually pretty easy to re-locate. If they’ve moved shallower, they’re more likely to bite.

As forementioned, in the fall the big largemouth bass, the ones that will excite anyone, move away from shallow cover. If you can find them on the edge of that cover before they get to the deeper stuff, try throwing a spinnerbait. Use something with big blades and a plastic trailer. A Rage Grub is a popular and productive trailer. Many of the most successful bass-catchers like to go with a trailer color that contrasts with the skirt of the spinnerbait. A white trailer is a favorite of mine, but other colors have also been productive.

Throw the spinnerbait on a rod with plenty of backbone. It’s possible that you’ll hook into some pretty stout bass, and you’ll want a rod that will get them under control. Lew’s produces several flippin’ rods that will throw the spinnerbaits well and also provide the power to get the bass out of the cover that they might be in or near.

Autumn can provide a great fishing experience. The weather can be so nice, the colors are spectacular, and the fish can be equally memorable. Make some fall fishing memories of your own in the next few weeks.