The length of day relative to the time of year never changes. As the nights lengthen slightly with each passing day in fall, the overnight temperatures drop and pull heat from the top layers of lakes.
This development is already underway, but will peak over the next month and make excellent fishing conditions for black bass.
“The cooler, oxygenated water in the shallows draws baitfish and the bass follow to feed heavily,” said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The shorter days signal to bass that winter is coming and they must feed heavily in fall.”
The shallow movement of black bass, mainly largemouth bass, but a few spotted bass and even smallmouth on lakes that have them, presents the best bass fishing opportunities of the year for bank-bound anglers.
Water temperatures in Kentucky’s major reservoirs are in the mid-70s. When the temperatures drop into the 60s, bank anglers should hit the lower 1/3 of the main lake or major creek arm of our major reservoirs and the dam area of our smaller, state-owned lakes. You will have as good a chance at a 5-pound or better bass as someone with a bass boat that costs as much as many people’s homes.
Bank fishing, like wade fishing streams, returns anglers to a time when all they had was a small, one-tray tackle box and a Zebco 33 combo. You can concentrate on fishing, not fighting wind with a trolling motor or fiddling with a cranky sonar unit. You can bring one rod and one small tackle bag or box and have all you need.
Map study is paramount for finding productive spots to bank fish for bass in fall. Points with the old river or major creek channel running close to them are tops. Most of our major reservoirs have boat ramps and recreational areas in the lower areas of the main lake or a major creek arm that offer public bank access.
Our smaller, state-owned lakes have a 50-foot easement for the public to access the bank for fishing. Visit the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at www.fw.ky.gov and click on the “Find a Place To Fish” tab. Many of the state-owned lakes now have 5-foot contour maps and locations of fish attractors featured on this helpful web page.
“You can use a more active bait in fall, especially if you are fishing from the bank,” Ross said. “Crankbaits and spinnerbaits work well in fall. You don’t have to slow things down too much. When they are up shallow, they are pretty active.”
Medium-running crankbaits in shad-colors such as chrome and black work wonders as do white spinnerbaits with skirts of black, silver with touches of blue. “Keep moving and cover water,” Ross said. “You don’t have to be too fancy, just get the bait in front of the bass.”
You will catch mainly largemouth bass, but in the lower sections of lakes such as Lake Cumberland, Barren River Lake or Green River Lake that hold smallmouths, a marauding bronzeback may savage your lure, especially on overcast days. You may also pick up a football-shaped spotted bass. Spotted bass make excellent table fare. It generally benefits the black bass population in the lake if you harvest some spotted bass, one of the reasons they have no minimum size limit.
Boat ramps are another spot to catch bass, especially largemouths and spotted bass. Nearly all boat ramps have a gouge hole at the end of them from the blast of outboards scouring the bottom when trailering a boat. By mid-October, boat ramps get little action from boats, so working a crankbait over the gouge hole at the end of the ramp can produce fantastic action.
The riprap rock that armors the face of most reservoir dams also draws baitfish and bass in fall. “Dams hold those bass when they come shallow in fall and make really good fishing spots for bank anglers,” Ross said.
Crankbaits and spinnerbaits work well for fishing the dam riprap, but a large crappie minnow or small to medium shiner hooked through upper lip with a 1/0-circle hook and a couple of BB-sized split shot weights usually outfishes everything. Keep the outfit moving slowly to avoid hanging the split shot weights in the riprap. Bottom fishing live bait off channel points also works wonders in fall.
Fall is a delightful time to grab a rod, a small tackle bag and hit the bank. The weather is comfortable and the fish hungry.