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Fall Fishing Tips




Fall is an often overlooked season for fishing, but tends to produce some of the most consistent bites of the year. 

Largemouth Bass

Some largemouth bass will form loose schools in open water, over vegetated flats, in the main lake portions, wind blown points and creek channel areas. Good lure selections include swimbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, lipped crankbaits and lipless crankbaits in shad and bluegill patterns. Bass gorge on calorie-rich baitfish in the fall to prepare for their wintertime lull. Big profile shad and bluegill imitating baits or live bait will yield the best results for bigger bass in deeper water. 

Search the banks in creek arms and coves with smaller profile swimbaits, tubes and grubs for smaller bass actively feeding on bluegill fry. You can often just listen for the sound of splashing near the bank to target active areas. You'll find an occassional lunker hammering the bank this way.

Look for topwater lure action in the low light morning and evening hours in coves, marinas, wind blown points and grass flats with poppers, buzzbaits, walking dogs and propellor baits.

Favorite topwater: Berkley Choppo in MF Bluegill or MF Shad

Bass Fishing Videos

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White Bass, Hybrid Striped Bass and Striped Bass

Try lipless crankbaits in gold, silver, shad or red patterns, sassy shad and swimbaits, shallow- or medium-diving lipped crankbaits and jerkbaits in shad-colored variations, and small white or chartreuse maribou jigs or curly tail grubs on the wind blown side of points, rip rap and coves in the low-light hours of the mornings and evenings. If fish begin to boil on top of the water, switch to topwater lures such as poppers, buzzbaits, walking dogs and propellor baits.

During the middle of the day, use a live minnow or shad on a small- to medium-sized bait holding hook attached to a 12-inch leader line below a barrel swivel and ¼ to ½-ounce egg weight on main lake flats, channel drop-offs and ledges. Let the line off of the reel directly below the boat to your desired depth or use a slip float if fishing from the bank. Vertically jigging spoons and slabs can also be effective.

Trolling umbrella rigs over channel ledges and main lake points and humps is also an effective method during the middle of the day.

Favorite umbrella rig: Captain Mack's Striped Bass Umbrella Rig

Temperate Bass Fishing Videos

Click the image square above to watch helpful how-to striped, hybrid striped and white bass fishing videos.

Walleye and Saugeye

The most important factor when fishing for walleye and saugeye is maintaining contact with the bottom. Unlike sunfish species, that spend periods of time at all levels of the water column, walleye and saugeye prefer the bottom third and feed almost exclusively off the bottom.

During the overnight hours and the week of full moons in the fall, walleye and saugeye will congregate in shallow water along rocky, wind-blown shoreline to feed. These are the times when walleye and saugeye are most accessible to bank anglers. Bank anglers also find success below dams when lakes that have walleye and saugeye are discharging water.

Walleye and saugeye like hard structure transition areas (areas of rapid depth change) near windswept shorelines and points for most of the year. Grassy areas around rocky structure are great spots to target during daylight hours.

They will retreat to deep main lake humps and structure in the summer and early fall months as they are a cold-water species most comfortable in water between 50˚F to 70˚F.

Walleye and saugeye like long, slender lipped crankbaits; white, chartreuse, pink/purple or naturally colored grubs; white, chartreuse, pink/purple or naturally colored swimbaits; and an array of live bait (nightcrawlers, leeches and minnows being the most popular).

If using lipped crankbaits, I recommend removing all the treble hooks from the lure and just replace the rear hook with a medium-sized straight shank single point hook. This allows you to bang the crankbait into and across the bottom with a lower percentage of snags or hang-ups.

The slower the retrieve speed the better for any walleye or saugeye presentation.

Crankbaits in fire tiger perch patterns or that have purplish backs are favorites among the toothy fish anglers.

If using natural bait, try a pre-packaged bottom bouncing setup like a Lindy Rig, Pro-Walleye Float'N Harness or make your own using a non-snag weight, barrel swivel, 12- to 24-inch leader and small- to medium-sized bait holding hook paired with natural bait. 

Join us on Friday, September 24 from 1-3 p.m. for a FREE virtual fishing course covering walleye and saugeye fishing tips. Click here to register.


Walleye & Saugeye Fishing Videos

Click the image square above to watch helpful how-to walleye and saugeye fishing videos. Click here for how-to videos from the pros at Northland Fishing Tackle.

Smallmouth Bass and Spotted Bass in clear water streams

For small creeks, like Barren Fork, stick to naturally colored tubes and grubs in the 1.5” to 3” variety on a 1/16th to 1/32nd ounce jighead or for the fly guys and gals, naturally colored streamers and wooly buggers in size 2 or smaller.

For the bigger streams, like the Illinois or Blue, bring a wider array of sizes. 1/16th up to ½ ounce jigheads paired with naturally colored tubes and grubs in the 3” to 5” inch variety work great in deep holes and runs. 1/32nd to 1/8th ounce jigheads paired with naturally colored tubes and grubs are more effective in the faster, shallower riffle and talout runs. Fly guys and gals should stick with naturally colored streamers and wooly buggers in size 2 up to 3/0. I recommend investing in some jig flies for the bigger water. While not the easiest to make pretty casts, it’s more effective than loading up the leader with split shot to get a bead-head to dive.

During the midday hours, the biggest fish will be on the shady side of cover in the deepest holes and move up into the riffle runs at first light and last light. Never overlook the shallow tail-outs at any time of day. Every now and then you’ll find the largest fish in a run.

Don’t forget polarized sunglasses. You can get a cheap pair at a sporting goods store or gas station for less than $25. It’s imperative not only for fishing, but for safety to be able to see the streambed when your wading. While I can’t promise that polarized sunglasses will catch you more fish, they can save you from a hospital visit or worse.

Wet wading is typically comfortable through the middle of October. Once water temperatures require waders to be worn, the bass fishing will slow considerably.

Favorite Lures

Favorite Flies

Wadable Public Access

Channel Catfish, Blue Catfish and Flathead Catfish

Channel catfish are opportunistic omnivores with a tendency to eat just about anything with scent that will fit in their mouth. Channel catfish are best targeted along dam rip rap and creek channels. A worm and bobber is an effective way to catch lots of small- to medium-sized channel catfish along dam rip rap, wind blown points and channel ledges while they are gorging for the winter. Punch bait, stink bait, cut bait and other scented baits fished off the bottom are also effective ways to target channel catfish along dam rip rap and channels. Channel catfish are much more likely to eat non-live or non-natural baits than flathead and blue catfish.

Flathead catfish can be an elusive fish to catch on rod and reel. Like largemouth bass, flatheads love a live bluegill, but locating and casting to flatheads can be difficult. Most anglers catch flatheads on live bait left unattended overnight, such as trotlines, limblines, juglines and yo-yos. For those looking to catch flatheads on rod and reel, focus your efforts in heavily wooded areas, such as coves or backwater that have lots of hollowed logs and stumps. Hook a live bluegill through the lips or between the dorsal and tail fin with a sturdy 6/0 to 10/0 circle hook attached to a 12-inch leader line below a barrel swivel and ½- to 1-ounce weight. Cast into the woody areas and let your line soak until you get a take.

Flathead catfish are essentially inactive when water temperatures drop below 60˚F. 

Blue catfish are a good intermediary to channels and flatheads. Blues can be caught on both live and dead natural baits as well as artifical baits like lipped crankbaits. Shad are the preferred food choice of blue catfish. Cut shad on a circle hook fished either off the bottom or below a float around creek channel ledges, dam rip rap and main lake flats is an effective way to catch lots of blues.

Blue catfish stay much more active than channels and flatheads in colder water tempertaures. As water temperatures begin to fall into the 60s look for blues over deep channel ledges and main lake flats.

Blue and flathead catfish are excellent table fare, especially the belly meat from flatheads.

Catfish Fishing Videos

Click the image square above to watch helpful how-to catfish fishing videos.

Bluegill Sunfish, Redear Sunfish and Green Sunfish

Sunfish can consistently be found year-round in shallow sheltered water, such as creek arms, coves and marinas. Bigger fish might seek out deeper cover directly adjacent to the shallow sheltered water. Preferred habitat includes brushy laydowns, grass flats, woody cover and surface cover like lily pads.

When water temperatures drop between 65˚F - 75˚F, try small naturally colored soft plastic baits paired with a 1/16th ounce jighead. Beadhead nymphs, especially ones with rubber legs, are effective for fly anglers. Sunfish are always looking for a good mayfly or caddis hatch, so be sure to have nymph, emerging and dry flies in these patterns when you see bugs popping on the water or sunfish surfacing.

Artficial lures and flies become less effective as fall gives way to winter and water temperatures drop into the 50s.

While natural live bait is effective all year long, it's especially efficient at picking up fish when fall water temperatures dip below 65˚F. A still presentation under a float or off the bottom near grass flats and stumps is ideal for picking up lethargic late-fall fish. A worm, grasshopper, leech, ant or cricket are all great options. Sunfish, like most warm water species, are just unwilling to give chase to fast-moving presentations in cold water.

Sunfish Fishing Videos

Click the image square above to watch helpful how-to sunfish fishing videos.

Black Crappie and White Crappie 

Live minnows or soft plastic baits like baby shad fished below a slip cork bobber or dead sticked off a dock or boat in transition areas (areas of rapid depth change) that have the most cover and bottom structure are an effective way to catch crappie during the fall.

Crappie will move in shallow to feed as water tempertaures get back into a more comfortable 60˚F - 70˚F. Areas like woody coves, docks or channel ledges that have laydowns or brush piles that move from shallow to deep water quickly are great spots to look. Once water temperatures dip below 60˚F, crappie will begin to form wintering schools in deep cover adjacent to prime feeding and spawning habitat.

Trolling jigs or small crankbaits over grass flats is also effective in the fall.

Crappie Fishing Videos

Click the image square above to watch helpful how-to crappie fishing videos.

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