For any predatory fish that swims, autumn can be the best time of the year for landing numbers of fish as well as the biggest fish of the season. As the waters begin to cool, fish will change location in any body of water – mostly to follow the feed!
No matter what big fish you're after, here is advice that will make you more successful this late-season!
#1 Go Big or Go Small With Your Bait Choice
When the water gets cold late in the winter, predatory fish tend to become relatively lethargic and feed a lot less. So leading up to that period, they put on the feedbag. In scientific terms, it's called a stage of "hyperphagia," which means "abnormally increased appetite."
The predators eat lots, and they eat big, so it's smart to up the size of your baits. In muskie country, for example, serious anglers will seek out 12"-18" suckers to use as bait for voracious fall muskies. Bass anglers from the lower Midwest to the south often find success with the biggest plastics and crankbaits they can lay their hands on in the fall. Anglers from the upper Midwest to the north should look for smaller baits because the forage isn't as big up there.
Tip: Shop at the Bass Pro Shops LURE SHOP to find quality baits for all fishing seasons and loctions.
#2 Re-spool Your Fishing Reel NOW
Autumn marks the end of a long fishing season. You've been after them since the leaves on the oak trees were the size of squirrels' ears – or some other such homespun indicators of the start of spring. You've put a lot of miles and even more abrasions on the line on your reels.
Change it now!
There's every chance you're going to hook your biggest fish of the year this fall. Do you want to risk the potential trophy of a lifetime to a worn-out fishing line? At least give it a good look and decide on a reel-by-reel basis but then again since you've got the line winder out, do them all.
#3 Slow Down Your Fishing Presentation as Water Cools
While fall's fish are hungry, they'll be less active as temperatures drop. That will mean slowing down your presentation whether you're trolling or casting. Jigging is the method that gives you ultimate control on the presentation speed, so that's why it works particularly well in the fall.
The closer winter gets. The slower you go.
#4 Follow the Bait
Follow the bait is precisely what the predatory fish are going to do, so it's what you should do, too. As the water cools, many species of baitfish are going to be seeking warmer climes, so at least for the short term, that means the shallows.
Look for fish hiding in structure in the shallows like stumps, timber, and fallen trees in the case of big water bass. On the Great Lakes, be sure to check warm water discharges from power plants and the like – especially the closer you get to winter. That's where the baitfish will begin assembling, and the big fish won't be far behind.
#5 Get Out There and Fish
Despite the great fishing, in many locales – especially Up North -- fishing pressure begins to taper in the fall. On trout streams, for example, you may have felt like you were fishing shoulder to shoulder in the spring. Come early autumn; chances are you'll have those same stretches of the stream all to yourself.
Tip: Shop Fly Fishing gear from flies and fly tying to fishing waders at basspro.com.
Fall weather can be unsettled, but you can use that to your advantage, too. Just stock up on the right clothing, and you can enjoy fishing right until freeze-up (and, of course, beyond if you wish!)
#6 Don't Fear the Fall Turnover in Lakes and Ponds
Many natural lakes in the North Country experience turnover in the fall. It's when the water near the surface cools to the same temperature as the water near the bottom. When this happens, the layers of water reach the same molecular density and they "mix." That's turnover.
Fish of all species like stability in their habitat, so turnover tends to slow fishing for awhile. However, you'll find success quickly following a turn over if you 1) focus on fishing lowlight periods including cloudy, breezy days and 2) find the bait. Again, following the feed is the Number One key to all fall fishing success.
Game fish are concentrated more during fall turnover than during any other part of the year. Most fish favor sharp breaking structure, and at this time you'll find many species using the same holding areas, and if you find them, you'll hit a bonanza!
#7 Don't Forget Topwater Fishing
Come to the end of summer; weed growth is at its most substantial and topwater fishing for bass can be at its most exciting. The trick is to find – or create – openings in shallow water weed beds where you can plop a topwater bait.
Following earlier advice, pick a high profile topwater bait, something that will make a lot of noise and fuss like the Bass Pro Shops XPS Z-Pop Hard Bait. Plop it here. Plop it there. Make a spectacle of it and hang on and be prepared for the eruption!