Fall fishing can be a time of great opportunity, but in all honesty, I usually find it one of the messiest times of the year. The fish are scattered, and you typically find them in several different stages. Some will be way in the backs of creeks, others will be chasing bait in open water and you’ll also have some deep offshore fish.
Most days, you have to determine where the fish will be, and that’s why it’s important to keep a variety of baits handy. I realize not everyone will have the depth and diversity of tackle that a professional fishermen needs, but I can recommend a good starting plan that will help you cover a lot of the bases and figure out where the fish will be.
For starters, you may find fish relating to really shallow cover like grass or stick ups on shallow flats. In the fall, they’ll relate to water quality changes and food availability. In this scenario, one of my favorite techniques is flipping with a Phenix Rods 7-11 Super Flipper rod. This is a medium-heavy rod that has enough tip for skipping around docks and wood cover, but it also has enough power to handle a 5-pounder buried in 10 pounds of grass.
There are two main styles of baits I like to flip in the fall: If I’m fishing super shallow cover, I’ll use a jig because it’s more efficient. If the cover is a little deeper and more vertical, I like a Texas-rigged Big Bite Baits Creature Bait. The creature bait tends to get through deep cover faster, and it’s somewhat of a reactive bite. For me, it’s always a matter of selecting the bait that allows me to work the spot most efficiently.
Another thing you find a lot in the fall is schooling fish in open water. In the fall, that could mean the surface, that could mean 50 feet of water, and it could mean anywhere in between. The thing about fall is that everything is on the move and with lake turnover, all of those conditions could occur within a week’s time — or even during the same day in different parts of the lake.
For these schooling fish, I want to use something that mimics a shad, whether it be a spoon, a little Alabama rig or a swimbait. A good rod to handle a lot of those reaction type presentations would be a 7-2 medium heavy Phenix M1 rod. I like this one because it’s good to have that softer tip for treble hook and multi-hook applications, but it’s still stout enough to power through a big jerkbait to a big topwater to a big spoon.
When the fish start relating to the bottom in more than 15 feet (which happens more in late fall), it narrows the number of tools you can use to reach that depth. A football head is a real go-to because it’s very efficient for the rocks and steep breaks you’ll be fishing. Also, a deep crankbait is a good option for targeting that deep stuff, but there’s also some crossover from the mid range with spoons, swimbaits and Alabama rigs.
Obviously, a jig rod is not a crankbait rod, so I’ll go with a Phenix X-13 or X-14 composite rod for deep diving crankbaits. For one thing, these rods will launch a bait as far as a reel can unload line; also, they have the body and the bend to handle fish on treble hooks.
For a football jig, I want more power and sensitivity, and I’m going with a stiffer action. For this, I like a 7-7 heavy Phenix MBX rod. It handles heavy line well, it has incredible sensitivity and it has the length for long casts and distant hook sets.
Remember, in the fall there are so many things going on and so much variety, that often it takes an open mind to capitalize. Conditions change a lot this time of year, so you have to stay in tune with the current weather, the condition of the bass, the activity level and the food that they’re targeting.
More often than not, I have a whole deck full of fishing rods, but these are four examples of rods that will get you in touch with something that’s going on where you’re fishing.