Kayak fishing in the fall can be challenging, especially compared to the sweet summer season just past. But hands down, fall is my favorite time of year to fish. Pattern the bass in your local fishery this fall and you will have plenty of action to hold you over until spring. Use these four fall fishing tips to tempt elusive prize bass into biting—and stay cozy in the process.
4 Fall Bass Fishing Tactics
1 Dress the Part
Cooling temperatures mean dressing differently, and because you’re on the water the type of clothing that you wear is important. When you fish moving water like a river, the best outerwear you can wear is a drysuit. But even in a drysuit, stick to synthetic base layers followed by thermal mid layers—like wool to retain heat—should you fall in.
Bibs and a waterproof jacket, or waders and a dry top, are the next best layering system for cold water. This will prevent rain, wind or water from the splashing of a fish from making you cold. The bibs and jacket won’t protect you from exposure if you fall in the water, so stay away from fabrics like cotton and stick to a wool mid-layer, as it will still warm you if you are wet.
And as always, make sure you wear your PFD!
2 Fish Like a Jerk
While some anglers switch to finesse or more subtle tactics when the water gets cooler, keeping your aggressive summer tactics and adapting them can work just as well. A jerkbait is my go-to pattern in the fall and early spring. Even if big fish are feeling lethargic after a cold front rolls in, a jerkbait can often get them fired back up.
My favorite jerkbait technique is to rip the bait fast and then let it sit for at least three seconds. If you have the nerve to wait a little longer, that may work even better. Change up the pause, making it faster or slower, until you figure out the best formula to make the big girls bite. Of course, be prepared hang on tight if a big fish does indeed hit your jerkbait; there’s nothing quite like a good jerkbait strike.
3 Lightweight is the Right Weight
If more aggressive tactics like a jerkbait aren’t working for you, or if you keep feeling fish nibble but won’t commit, downsize your lures to something ultralight. Even ultralight topwater lures can be deadly in the fall, and small fish aren’t the only ones that can get keyed in on big baits. If a 40-pound king salmon can hit a fly smaller than a penny, then a five-pound largemouth will hit a 1/8-ounce lure any day.
I usually stick to natural color schemes when deciding which lure to tie on. Check the water clarity—if the water is stained you can get away with more aggressive patterns, but if it is clear I pick as natural a lure as possible. Recent favorites include crawfish soft plastics and small baitfish imitations.
4 If All Else Fails, Jig It
You’ve gone aggressive, then you switched to subtle tactics, and still nothing is working. Maybe a massive cold front has rolled in and is sitting right on top of you, or maybe you’re just having one of those days. The best way to get out of a funk is to switch to a jig that will get you strike after strike, no matter how finicky the fish are acting.
I like a versatile swim jig that I can fish all year long. With the right jig you can start to experiment on tactics. Let the current do most of the work, giving the lure some subtle, naturalistic action. Or go the opposite route, and bounce the lure with some vertical jigging for a more aggressive bite. If the fish start hitting left and right, try a steady retrieve and swim the jig through structure for some massive strikes.
Fall bass fishing requires dressing differently as the weather tips into cooler temperatures. | Feature photo: Ben Duchesney