Successful Fall Fishing Tips from Bass to Walleyes
Fall is a game changer when it comes to fishing. Although still coming in second to the spring bite, fall fishing offers renewed opportunities to catch fish from bass to walleyes. To get you started, we have put together fall fishing tips for bass, catfish, panfish, pike, trout and walleyes as your fall fishing guide to help you catch more fish.
Generally, fall fishing tips can range from fishing line choices to what lures you should be throwing. However, there are a few simple fall fishing tips you should know regardless of what species you are targeting this time of year.
- Know the forage. All other fall fishing tips aside, finding the forage is the key. Fall fishing lures should match the color and size of baitfish and other forage in a given water body.
- Water temperature. Dropping temperatures make fish more active, increasing their metabolism. This equates to more feeding and more hook ups when the water temperature is falling.
- Find depth changes. As the water starts to change, fish will tend to relocate to areas that are close to deeper water, where changes in water temperatures from weather fronts or colder nights are less dramatic than in shallow areas.
- Fish near vegetation. Vegetation is on the decline as September rolls around but these areas still hold a variety of species looking for cover and forage. Find the green and find the fish.
Bass Fishing in the Fall
Bass are on the move in the fall. They begin to react to stimulating declines in water temperatures, which prompt bass to increase their feeding. Finding baitfish is at the top of all fall fishing tips for bass. Shad and other forage fish bass feed on begin to move into predictable places during the fall. Shad will move into upper lake reaches such as coves and creek mouths with dropping water temperatures in lakes. In addition, baitfish will school up on offshore drop-offs and near vegetation edges.
The last thing you want is to forget about rivers when fall bass fishing. Anglers tend to concentrate on lakes in the fall but rivers are major hotspots for bass fishing in the fall. Bass move into areas of current this time of year. Fish can be caught especially around current breaks where baitfish and crawfish collect. Fall bass fishing tips for fishing in lakes include focusing on suspended bass near drop-offs and fishing feeder creeks. Both attract baitfish and other forage options for bass this time of year.
Fall bass fishing lures are less of a concern than in other times of the year. With increased feeding, bass can be caught on almost any artificial pattern. The key is to use a lure that matches the size and color of the natural forage you are imitating. Crankbaits do this better than most others lures. You can work lipless crankbaits in the shallows and then move to medium diving styles to fish suspended bass offshore on drop-offs. Do not forget to match your fishing line for bass to your lure choice for better performance.
Fishing for Fall Catfish
Catfish anglers are not that different from other anglers when it comes to fall fishing. They are excited that the cooler temperatures are getting more fish active and hungry, making each fishing trip more successful. Catfish start to school up in the fall and converge on shallow sand covered bottoms and rocky shorelines to feed. Catfish will spend their nights in these shallows feeding on anything from baitfish to crawfish. During the day, catfish will retreat to rocky shores for cover and to continue feeding.
Perhaps the best place for fishing for fall catfish is along riprap in large lakes and rivers. Riprap is a covering of large, loose rocks placed on shorelines to help prevent erosion. These protective barriers of angular stone extend deep enough for catfish to feed and hide within. Riprap holds baitfish and particularly crawfish better than any other places in a waterway. These spots are ideal for catfish because they not only provide food but offer depth, shade and protection all in one relatively close area.
Live bait is the best fall fishing tip when it comes to fishing for fall catfish. Hook up cut bait from local baitfish or crawdads with 4/0 to 6/0 circle hooks, adding enough weight to reach the bottom. If you are fishing deeper riprap edges, trying using 1-oz jig heads with bait rigged on the hook. Fishing in these sharp and rocky areas can be tough on your line so make sure you have proper catfishing line to handle not only the fish but the environment you are fishing. Catfish can be caught throughout the day along riprap, shorelines and around bridges, but you should target shallows during the evening in rivers.
Catching Panfish in the Fall
A time of plenty is how some anglers might describe fall fishing for panfish. Many species of panfish from crappies to sunfish can be easily caught and caught in large quantities in the fall. As with other fish species, panfish are changing their patterns as the waters begin to cool. Spring and summer had anglers staying shallow to catch panfish but fall is the time to move out to deeper water if you want to land a cooler full of panfish.
Schools of crappies or perch can be picked up in deeper water using your fish finder. Search areas near weed edges and steep drop-offs in 15-30 feet of water to find feeding schools. Finding them is often the most challenging part. Even following the best fall fishing tips will only get you so far if you cannot find these schools of fish. Once found, typically all it takes is anchoring down and dropping the right fishing line for panfish at the right depth to hook into fish after fish. You will want to stay on the school for continued success. Usually, this time of year panfish will stay in one spot for extended periods of time so again once you find them you can at least be sure to pull a few from the school.
Top panfish lures include 1/32- to 1/8-oz jig heads hooked with small soft plastic twister tail grubs or minnow imitating baits. Live bait is also a go-to presentation for fall fishing for panfish. Add a jigging spoon or jig head to a nightcrawler or live minnow to reach schooled fish at greater depths.
Fall Pike Fishing Tips
Cooler water provides some much-needed relief for many species, including pike. Pike are more aggressive than other species this time of year as they look to fill up on a range of food sources. With other species, fall fishing tips like fishing near vegetation and knowing what forage options are available in the water you are fishing are important.
Concentrate on weedy flats, especially ones near drop-offs. Here you will find aggressive pike feeding on just about anything they can catch that is trying to hide and feed in the weeds. The weeds, however, are starting to deteriorate and lose its drawing power for fish. Search out green patches in lakes that hold pike to find several congregated together. If the weeds have all gone, pike can also be found near artificial lake structures. Prey will move to sunken structures as the weeds diminish. Pike patrol these spots and can be hooked with fast moving lure presentations.
Fall fishing tips for pike from a lure standpoint can range from shallow running crankbaits fished near the weeds to jigs with 5-inch soft plastic worms worked in open pockets near green vegetation. You want to create movement with whatever fall fishing lure you are using. In waters that have yet to cool much since summer, try spinnerbaits or fast moving crankbaits. As the water temperature changes so should your retrieve. Change your lure retrieve to slow when trying to entice a pike bite. If you are exclusively fishing for pike in the fall, your fishing line choices are reduced. Use a specific fishing line for predatory fish to ensure pike do not cut your line during the fight.
October Trout Tactics
For many streams, fall can be a tough time to catch trout. Those streams that are stocked are usually fished clean and the ones that remain are wary of any angler presence near the water. Natural reproducing streams are in spawning mode for brown trout. Anglers have to be careful not to interrupt any more than necessary these areas this time of year. The good news is many stocked waters are getting a final fall stocking, which provides additional opportunities to catch a few trout. In addition, cooler water and increased rain provide a much need jolt to those trout that have hung on through the summer waters.
Since many trout have reduced normal feeding activities during summer, fish are hungry and aggressively replenishing their lost reserves going into winter. Fall fishing tips for trout include identifying waters that hold trout and choosing the right fall fishing lures to catch them.
In lakes, brown trout are moving from lake edges to feeder streams to spawn. These tributaries provide exactly what big browns are looking for when it comes time to spawn. Fish these locations carefully and check local regulations when it comes to fall fishing in spawning brown trout areas. Other trout species can still be found in deep pools if lake water temperatures are in the 70s. As lake temperatures drop, trout will move into coves where more baitfish and aquatic insects can be found. Fish small stick baits worked around tributaries or near shallow ledges to produce trout this time of year.
Fall trout fishing in streams has its own challenges as noted above. Most streams have been fished hard or are void of fish if they are a stocked waterway. To pick up a holdover trout, cast in-line spinners in the current. Also, live bait and bait imitation lures work well in streams. Fall fishing tips like fishing nightcrawlers after a heavy rain and floating egg sacks or salmon eggs along stream banks are effective in enticing a bite from a lurking trout.
Finding Walleyes in the Fall
Rocky points and main lake breaks are where you will find fall walleyes. While these should be your first choice for catching fall walleyes, shallow vegetation can hold fish as well. These hotspots offer a productive, low-pressure option that other anglers neglect when fishing for walleyes in the fall.
Similar to fishing for pike in the fall, vegetation that is still green can hold walleyes. These thriving weed beds attract baitfish and the walleyes will not be far behind. Depending on the lake, productive vegetation can range from 5- to 25-feet deep. Green patches that are near deep-water sanctuaries hold the most walleyes in the fall.
Soft plastics are perfect fall fishing lure choices for fishing weed edges and open pockets in dense cover. Options include 3- to 4-inch grubs in pumpkinseed and watermelon. Swimbaits tipped with a jig head work well to replicate moving baitfish through the weeds too. Fish the edges, letting the lure fall completely to the bottom and retrieve steady with periodic lift and fall motions. Fall fishing tips are not just about lures. For instance, fishing with fluorocarbon line keeps your finesse presentations invisible to waiting for walleyes yet provides the ability to step up line diameter to land bigger fish.
There you have it. A fall fishing guide for species most anglers is off to fish for this autumn. The heat is slowing receding and the ice will not be far off. These seemly short few months between both is a welcome for serious and weekend anglers alike. The fall fishing tips in this guide are good if you are planning a fall fishing trip to the north for hot pike and walleye action or heading south for phenomenal fall bass fishing in a southern lake. Either way, take advantage of this time of year as fishing in the fall offers opportunities to catch more fish.