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Published: November 11, 2013
Find Baitfish, Find Fall Bass
by Lynn Burkhead
Fishing during the fall months is something Major League Fishing pro Edwin Evers knows a thing or two about.
It being the ability to catch fish. And to win tournaments.
As you'll recall, late last October, as Hurricane Sandy roared up the Eastern seaboard and left Florida's wind whipped Lake Istokpoga in her rearview mirror, Evers did both.
He caught plenty of fish on the last day, a final period tear on the vast, shallow water body.
And he caught enough bass to overtake leader Ish Monroe and win the Jack Link's Major League Fishing 2013 GEICO Challenge Cup on Istokpoga in dramatic fashion.
In an interview I did with E-Squared several years ago, Evers admitted that he really, really, really likes fall fishing.
“Bar none, the best thing (about the season) is that the fish are really grouped up,” said Evers.
Meaning that where there's one, there's usually another one nearby.
If you saw the MLF telecast on the Outdoor Channel earlier this year that chronicled Evers come-from-behind Challenge Cup win, then you saw this truth illustrated in spades.
Because the Talala, Okla., pro won the MLF Istokpoga event by finding a literal smorgasbord of Florida bass halfway back in Arbuckle Creek that simply couldn't say no to the lures that he tossed their way.
That those bass were in such a spot during a fall tournament isn't surprising.
Because that's what bass typically do during the autumn quarter of the year according to Ken Cook, the Meers, Okla., fisheries biologist turned into legendary B.A.S.S. tournament pro.
“The baitfish are going to move from main lake areas to tributaries (in the fall),” said Cook, who retired in 2009 after becoming one of the sport's all-time best tournament pros.
"And that will affect where the best bass fishing is."
Where that best fishing is depends somewhat on what particular month of the fall season you happen to be fishing.
"By October and November, you’re going to be fishing up a creek somewhere, but in September, you are looking for that to begin to happen," said Cook, an Oklahoma State University graduate.
The key to finding fall bass - either those that are preparing to move into the backs of creeks or those that are already in such areas - is to find baitfish.
Because they're the literal gears that drive the seasonal machine of fall bass fishing.
In many southern waters, it's schools of threadfin shad that the bass are keying on, meaning that it's a shad, shad story when it comes to locating good fishing.
A bad joke perhaps, but yes, the pun is intended.
Because when you find the presence of shad during the fall months, you've also found the bass.
“If you’re not seeing baitfish, you certainly need to be moving since sometime during the day, they’ll feed,” said Cook. “The bass will not necessarily feed all day, but there will be a window sometime during the day where it will be easy.”
Kind of like Evers' final period Challenge Cup beat down last fall when he caught bass after bass after bass on Istokpoga.
What happens when that window closes and the bass are not actively feeding?
“The rest of the time, spend your time near cover that has baitfish around it,” said Cook, the 1991 Bassmaster Classic champion and winner of five other B.A.S.S. events.
Like Evers indicated earlier in this piece, Cook encourages anglers to remember that where there's one fish, there's usually another in the fall.
“That’s true in a lot of cases although you may not catch it on the next cast," he said. "You may have to come back later to try it again and get another bite, but there is always going to be another fish there at some point in time.”
This principle is even true when an angler pulls a bass away from cover that looks only big enough to contain a single solitary fish.
“When you’re fishing an isolated piece of cover, you never just want to make one cast,” said Cook.
Take a submerged log lying in the water, for instance.
“Throwing spinnerbaits parallel to (the) log on its shady side would be my number one choice,” said Cook.
“After that, try a crankbait and after that, pitch a Power Tube. Try to catch all of available fish off a piece of cover before you leave.”
Speaking of baits, Cook is a big fan of fishing active baits during the fall months.
Such selections include spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and crankbaits since the bass are either feeding actively or making a predatory ambush-like strike at a lure that simulates an injured baitfish.
What color does Cook like to use at this time of the year?
Shad colored lures are an obvious choice, including those that are pearl colored with a chartreuse back.
When the water is a little stained, Cook will seek a reaction strike with a brighter color like chartreuse, blue-backed chartreuse, or even mustard colored baits.
The bottom line during this time of year is to look for baitfish.
Especially baitfish that are on the move towards the back ends of a creek that dumps into the lake that you're fishing.
Because the bass will likely be there. And so should you.
Even if you're not trying to win the Bassmaster Classic or the Challenge Cup with countless numbers of bass angling fans watching on TV.