Late can be great
Up in Michigan, where I live, it's starting to get cold. The weatherman is calling for snow and even the most optimistic bass angler would have to call this the “late season.”
But “late” can be great no matter where you live, as long as you have the right attitude and right approach. The bass fishing is still really good. Fish are still feeding, and you can still fish pretty fast and cover a lot of water to catch them.
The first point I want to make about late season bass fishing and bass habits is that 50 degree water in the spring is a lot colder than 50 degree water in the fall. Your thermometer might not be able to tell the difference, but the bass sure can. It's all about trends and how they react to them.
In the spring, a bass in 50-degree water is slowly warming, and its metabolism is trying to catch up. The fish can still be pretty lethargic. But in the fall, a bass in 50-degree water is gradually cooling down, and its metabolism can still be fairly high. It makes a big difference.
Over much of the country, the best bass fishing of the year is happening right now, and there are a couple of reasons for this.
First, the fish are still feeding and active. Second, as temperatures drop and bass abandon the creeks and cuts where they were chasing shad a few weeks ago, they start to congregate in large numbers and become predictable — where you find one, you may have found a hundred. Third, winter drawdowns on many reservoirs will compress the areas bass can live and allow you to eliminate unproductive water faster and easier. Finally, the fishing and boating pressure on your favorite waters is going to be much lower than it was in the spring and summer. Football and hunting will keep a lot of would-be bass anglers on the recliner or in the woods.
All that adds up to a great time to be out bass fishing — and even power fishing. The bass are still focused on baitfish at this time of year, though they're probably not in the backs of creeks.
If I was in the Deep South, I might be throwing a buzzbait now, but over much of the rest of the country, I'd rely on spinnerbaits, crankbaits, lipless crankbaits, swimbaits, jerkbaits and bladed swim jigs.
Where the water's clear, I like spinnerbaits, swimbaits, jerkbaits and bladed swim jigs. If it has some color to it, I still like spinnerbaits, but also fish lots of crankbaits and lipless crankbaits, like the Redeye Shad.
Since the bass have a lot more of the water column to use at this time of year, you really need to experiment with your retrieve speed and depth. Slow rolling a spinnerbait might be best — or yo-yoing a Redeye Shad. Other times you can fish quite a bit faster. I usually start with fairly fast retrieves and slow down if I don't get action right away.
Just remember that it's not too cold to use moving baits, not too cold to power fish and not too cold to cover water. And once you find the fish, really work that area over carefully with a variety of baits and retrieves. With bass starting to congregate at this time of year, you may have struck the Mother Lode!
And remember, it's all about the attitude.