Bass Fishing Tactics for Overcoming the Fall Turnover
It is called the October Lull in deer hunting, but if you are a bass angler you know of it as the fall turnover. This transition period where the water in lakes is changing in preparation for winter is a time when bass fishing can be difficult. Bass fishing in fall, especially in the month of October, can mean tight-lipped bass and tough overall bass fishing conditions. However if you understand the fall turnover and how to fish it, there can be good days on the water catching bass in the fall.
Explaining the Fall Turnover
When we talk about turnover we are referring to what is happening in lakes this time of year. The fall turnover is a transition period in lakes when the lower layer (bottom water) of water mixes and takes the place of the upper layer (top water) of water. This process happens in a relatively short period of time, as quickly as overnight in small, shallow lakes to over the course of a few days to a week in larger lakes.
Fall turnover sounds much worse than it may seem and in some fall bass fishing anglers minds it is devastating. In reality, it is a naturally occurring process that impacts a lake’s ecosystem for a short period of time. Fish species, including bass, are conditioned to the current underwater environment including pH, oxygen levels and temperature within a lake. The fall turnover changes all of these at a rapid rate in environmental terms. Fish and other aquatic organisms are “shocked” with this change. Fish usually become inactive for a length of time until they are fully able to adjust to the changing conditions, which means your trusted fall bass fishing tips can let you down. Think goldfish being put into a fish tank for the first time. It takes the goldfish some time to adjust and become active, especially when it comes to feeding.
Even though the fall turnover is happening throughout the lake, some fish are more affected by it than others. Fish that live mostly in shallow water are less affected than those that spend most of their time in deep water. When turnover starts, which could be triggered by a cold fall rain or a rapid decrease in temperature, fish in the deepest part of a lake feel the most change. Fish in the shallows are already acclimating as the change is occurring while deeper water in a lake will change much more rapidly.
Temperature is the best way to determine if a lake is turning over. When the turnover is in progress, the entire water column will be at the same temperature plus or minus a few degrees. Other clues to bass fishing in fall during fall turnover include:
- Sudden decrease in water clarity as water circulation moves silt and organic matter throughout the lake.
- Clumps of decaying organic matter floating on the surface caused by turnover breaking free these materials from the lake bottom.
- Baitfish will distribute up and down the water column during fall turnover so if you see baitfish at various depths with your electronics then it may be a sign the lake is turning over.
The Truths and Myths of Fall Turnover
First off, the biggest myth associated with fall turnover is that it shuts down bass fishing for weeks. It does make fall bass fishing tough for a short period of time but soon after the transition is complete bass fishing in fall heats up again. Another myth is that fall turnover happens in all lakes. This is again false. Large lakes with constant current typically do not turnover in the fall or experience little effects from this transition. Current keeps the water mixed all year long whereas smaller, still-water impoundments are more susceptible to having more abrupt change due to the fall turnover.
One truth about this process in the fall is that it can have the potential to kill fish. For example, rapid turnover from uncharacteristic weather can cause extreme turnover events. Cold rains coupled with cool temperatures can force warm lake water to stir up particulate matter from the lake bottom, which brings up decomposition. The decomposition consumes oxygen and can starve the lake of oxygen-rich water fish need to survive. If it happens fast enough, some fish may be lost in the process.
Bass Reactions and Bass Fishing Implications
Bass, like other fish, cannot simply change their environment so they have little options to escape the fall turnover. Bass have to adjust or move as these changes are occurring. Changes in water conditions‚ temperature, nutrient content and the concentration of oxygen all cause bass to react. The transformation in a lake is usually incremental but can sometimes be dramatic as mentioned previously. Bass fishing lures that had been consistent for days or even weeks prior, might suddenly fail to produce because of this change.
Although bass are resilient and not often affected physically from turnover in a lake, they do decrease their activity during these events. Feeding slows down until the new lake conditions stabilize, which means fall bass fishing can slow. The bottom line with bass fishing in fall while a lake is turning over is to stick with your fall bass fishing equipment and tackle. The bite may be off for a few days but be patient and wait for the lake to stabilize and return to catching bass in the fall.
Where to Find Transitional Bass
During the fall turnover, bass can be stacked up in areas where oxygen levels are not diminished and the effects of turnover are lessened such as shallow flats near feeder streams. After the turnover in a lake is complete, bass can be anywhere. This time of year bass are feeding in excess to prepare for winter. To do so, they are constantly moving with baitfish such as shad or alewives. Sometimes the bass will be near the surface or sometimes they will be in deeper water, it all depends on the forage they are after. The key is to find where the baitfish are, follow them and fish your fall bass fishing lures at those depths.
Catching Fall Transitional Bass
Regardless if turnover is occurring or not in the lake you are bass fishing, bass fishing in fall is about finding the food. Baitfish and shad are moving to the backs of creeks and pockets in search of better quality water and more aquatic food sources for themselves. All it takes is finding these schools, having the right bass fishing equipment and putting the time in to catch them.
Let’s start first with lure color selection. This time of year it is more important than ever to match your bass fishing lures to natural color patterns of baitfish and shad. In clear water, stick with Vicious Crankbait colors like natural shad and sexy then switch to chartreuse/black or a root beer/chartreuse in more stained waters. Soft plastics are another option this time of year and colors should be around the green pumpkin/watermelon seed varieties. Multi-color soft plastics like tubes with different skirt colors or worms with a flashy color tails also produce as they mimic a quick darting baitfish if fished correctly. It is important that you have multiple colors of the same lures. Bass in the fall can quickly become conditioned to your bass fishing lure choices and throwing the same color and lure combinations over and over again can lead to fewer strikes.
Next is fishing line choice. Selecting the right fishing line is a must this time of year. It will not only help you battle the conditions caused by the fall turnover but it will lead to more successful hookups. Match your fishing line to your lure selection. Use fluorocarbon fishing line for fishing crankbaits in shallow to medium depth water then change to monofilament fishing line for deep diving crankbaits. Fishing line sizes ranging from 10- to 17-lb test work well for fall bass fishing. The best fishing line choice is to spool braided fishing line paired with a fluorocarbon leader, which is versatile enough to fish both soft plastics and crankbaits. Have multiple rod and reels ready with different fishing line for bass so you can quickly match your line with your fishing lure.
Capt. Mike Frenette – No-Fade Braided Fishing Line from ICAST 2016 in Orlando.
(Video) – Capt. Mike Frenette had a chance to use the all-new No-Fade Braided Line and talks about its superior characteristics.
The fall turnover can sneak up on you and one day you can be catching bass after bass and the next not even get a strike. Fish are still around just not as active as they normally would be while this transition is occurring. To catch fish during these few days in the fall, you must cover lots of water. Fish both shallow and deep while moving quickly from one spot to another until you run into a bass that is receptive to your bass fishing lure. The best fall bass fishing lures for this type of fishing are crankbaits. Crankbaits let you cover a lot of water quickly and are also flexible enough to work different water depths.
5 Crankbait Hotspots for Bass Fishing in Fall
Crankbaits are the go-to lure for fall bass fishing. They can run shallow to deep, mimic forage and provide you the ability to fish lots of water quickly. Here are the five best fall crankbait fishing spots for bass fishing.
- Riprap. Banks and bridges are often covered with large, chunk rock called riprap. Often these areas with riprap are characterized by bottlenecks such as bridge underpasses and narrow lake shores, as the riprap is added here for bank stabilization. As baitfish throughout a lake, they have to swim past these bottlenecks and bass are usually waiting to cut them off. Run a suspending crankbait in the riprap rocks letting it bounce off the rocks and suspend in place. This is where your abrasion resistant fishing line comes in handy. Typically, after hitting the rocks a few times then stopping, a bass takes it.
- Shallow Flats. Large bass will push baitfish and shad into shallow flats such as lake coves to school them up for a feeding frenzy. This shallow water is often overlooked by anglers. This area is also ideal for minimizing the effects of fall turnover and often active bass can be caught in these areas even during the transition. Use your Vicious Polarized Fishing Glasses to spot lurking bass. Throw lipless crankbaits retrieved slowly through these flats to hammer large bass.
- Lake Points. Points are used as a transition area for fall bass. Bass will stop on these drop-offs as they come out from the deeper water chasing baitfish. Look for suspending bass off these points, especially around cover. Choose a crankbait for the right depth and fish it around the structure.
- Never Fished Areas. There are just parts of a lake that never get fished. For instance, bass anglers are in the grass and structure all year long hammering away at the bass. But some of those banks that come nothing close to looking fishy are never touched, particularly when fall bass fishing. Here you will find baitfish that are escaping the disturbance from other anglers and yearlong lake traffic. Bass follow and big fish can be had in some of the most unlikely looking areas with the right crankbait.
- Last Cover. The later in the year it gets the less vegetation will be available. What vegetation is left can often be a hotspot for catching bass in the fall. Bass will gather around remaining cover as the fall turnover is occurring as well as afterward in search of passing by baitfish. Fish parallel to weed edges with shallow diving, small crankbaits to get a reaction strike from bass hiding deep in the weeds.
The fall turnover is coming to a lake near you. There will be times this fall on your favorite lake when you will be hard pressed to get a bite fall bass fishing. This transition period will come and go but while it is here bass fishing will not be easy. Understanding the fall turnover and how it impacts bass fishing in fall are ways to combat this lull and land a few bass.