Thursday, September 6, 2012

River Fishing for Largemouth Bass - Summer to Fall Transition

River fishing is a growing section of the bass fishing world, yet not much has been written about targeting largemouth bass in rivers.  Traditionally, largemouth bass were seen as fish that you catch in reservoirs and lakes, but rivers can be some of the most productive waters around (if you can find the bass.)  So how do you target largemouth bass in a river?  Here is a detailed breakdown for catching largemouth bass in the river.

Continuing in this series from the Summer river fishing, we will now begin the transition to fall.  The most difficult aspect to catching largemouth bass in the river during this transition is finding fish.  Just like their cousins in the lake, river largemouth bass will be moving around.  They are beginning to move out of their lazy summer locations and are starting to become more active.

We will attack this Summer to Fall transition and break it down a little different than we did the Summer River Largemouth Fishing (which we broke down into Location and Presentation.)  We will put all the info into one article, and talk location and presentation at the same time.  Here is my strategy for targeting Largemouth Bass in the river during the Summer to Fall transition:

Knowing Whats Up

Before you can start to target the fish, you need to know what they are doing.  This is a transition period and bass can be scattered.  Early in this transition, the fish will most likely be in their Summer patterns and located in their Summer spots.  As it cools more into fall and the weather really starts turning, the fish will be in their fall patterns of chasing baitfish back into creeks and coves.  The time between the two is what we are focusing on.  What do the fish do during this time, and how do you fish for them.

The transition happens at different times for different fish.  This scatters the fish around the river.  Depending on weather conditions and water levels, this can happen at different times of the year.  The first noticeable change in water temperature is often my key to start focusing on my Summer to Fall transition patterns.  You will also start noticing your summer patterns slowing down (especially the slow hot summer afternoon patterns,) and might start noticing more bites on your active search baits.

A heavy late Summer or early Fall rain can raise the water level and increase the current speed.  This could also be a trigger pushing more fish away from the Summer patterns.  This can also make the fish very active, and are often great days to hit the river.  A strong early cold front can also push the fish further into this transition, but can also shut them down and make them tight lipped, picky eaters.

During this transition period, the largemouth bass will be scattered.  As I mentioned earlier, the transition from Summer to Fall patterns can happen at different times for different fish.  This makes finding the fish a little more difficult.  That is why, once your summer patterns have turned off, you need to start focusing on your search baits.

Techniques and Presentations

Search for Active Bass

Crankbaits, lipless crankbaits, and spinnerbaits, can all produce well this time of year.  Fish them relatively quickly covering as much water as possible.  Covering water is important.  You don't want to waste time fishing slow for a fish that might not be there.  Fish for the active fish.  Cover as much water as possible this time of year.

Almost anything is open to holding fish.  Early in this period, the end of the Summer, is a good time to focus on grass.  Grass should be thick from Summer growth.  My first line of attack during this time of year is to throw spinnerbaits or crankbaits over the top of the grass.  I tend to use shad colored baits this time of the year. (For more on my crankbait color choice: How to Choose Your Crankbait Color Pattern)  Ripping a lipless crankbait over the grass, then allowing it to flutter down into it before ripping it out again can really be a key sometimes.  Make a fast, long pull with the rod, let the lure fall while you are picking up the slack with the reel.  Rip it again, and let it fall.  You can also use a weedless jig and flip and pitch to holes that are beginning to form in the grass.  Remember to work quickly though, and as more fish move into the transitional period, you might want to get out of the middle of the grass.

If the fish seem to have moved out of the grass I will fish deeper, running crankbaits along the weedlines.  Work the outside, inside, and downstream side of the weedline.  But don't make more than a few casts to each.  Cover as much water as possible.  Focus on the active fish.  Remember that you are river fishing, so pay attention to the current as you do this.  Try to focus on where you think the fish will stage to ambush baitfish.  If they are in or around the grass, then they are using the grass as a current break and attacking baitfish who are caught in the current outside the weeds.  Typically casting upstream and bring your lure back down to you can be the most productive.

As you move around quickly from spot to spot, don't pass over any flats or gradual banks and sandbars.  River largemouth will use these areas as hunting grounds, and when trying to find active or transitioning fish, these feeding areas can be dynamite.  Work them quickly with crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and even large shad colored flukes.  Pay attention to the current, and try to work the lure from upstream to downstream, bringing the lure back with the current.

Don't focus specifically on one type of cover or structure (unless you find a pattern, which can happen.)  Fish anything and everything that looks like it might hold bass.  The fish are scattered.  Some might be deep still, some might move up shallow.  The more active fish will tend to stay in areas with current moving, so since you are focusing on chasing active fish, the majority of your casts should be in these areas.

As the transition moves on closer to Fall, the bass will start following the schools of baitfish into the backs of pockets, creeks, and coves.  At the end of this transitional period, you can spend more of your time focusing on the mouths of these, and begin to move back into them as the majority of the baitfish do.  Again, even during this time, keep using lures that can cover a ton of water, and keep moving searching for the active fish.

Frogs, Toads, Rats, and a Buzz

Another technique that I find can produce very will during this transition, especially in the mornings, is fishing frogs, toads, rats, and buzzbaits, over grass and especially along the bank.  Keep moving, making no more than a couple casts to each location.  I typically focus fishing these lures along banks with plenty of cover.  Wood and grasses tend to produce the best, but this can be successful along elephant ear lined banks and the remaining lily pad fields as well.

Early in this transition (late Summer) I will use more of the hollow body frog and rat style lures.  I will just cast them out and reel them in, sometimes with a few short pauses when I bump into or climb onto a piece of cover.  Later I will transition into buzzbaits and soft plastic frogs with thumping legs.  There typically is nothing fancy here, I just cast out and reel in.  I will vary my speed from fast to slow, until I find the speed the fish want, but I keep each retrieve a consistent speed normally.

It doesn't matter if the body of water you are fishing has frogs or rats in it or not.  I don't think that bass see these as frogs most the time.  I will usually use black, white, or shad colored lures for this technique, depending on the amount of light there is.  The darker the day, the darker the bait.  And again, just as with anything else you do during this transition period, you should look for active fish.  Keep moving and making casts to new water.

Remember, no mater what lure you are using to chase River Largemouth bass this time of year, keep it moving, cover as much water as you can, and hunt those active fish.  The fish might stick to cover, but there is no specific cover they will stick to.  Fish it all, fish it fast, and fish a shad or minnow colored lure.

Related Articles:
River Fishing for Largemouth Bass - Summer (Location)
River Fishing for Largemouth Bass - Summer (Presentation)
Interview with Drew Gregory

1 comment:

  1. very good artical the only thing i would disagee with is that once you find a active fish look for the closest deeper hole anything deeper then say five feet and slowly present lure slection...drop shot excellent choice. Usually there will be a large number of unactive fish there but they will still bite. they chase out of this hole pushing baitfish toward shallow water and you can tear them apart during chases with a spook. (front side ooxbow)I have won three tournaments in past month sitting in this spot entire day only changing my angle of presentation about every thirty min. plus drop shot in river? the bass probably don't see it much and they will not let it shake in front of them. Good luck and awesome article.