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The Pros Talk Texas Bass
Think you know all the secrets of where and how to find fall largemouths at Lone Star lakes? Think about taking a lesson from these three experts before you answer that! (October 2007)
If you're a Texas bass fisherman, you're in luck: Fall is now firmly in command of the calendar.
Hunting seasons and football games are going on all across the Lone Star State, and the combination of those pastimes' allure with the cooling of waters statewide leads many anglers to put up their boats for the year. The result: un-crowded lakes. Better yet, the bass have come out of their summer doldrums and are eagerly feeding up in instinctive preparation for the coming winter.
Truth be told, the bass fishing action all across the state -- from Toledo Bend in the east to Alan Henry in the west, and from Ray Roberts up north to Amistad down south -- is pretty good. To help us narrow that down a bit, we got some input from Jeff Samsel, public relations coordinator for the Bomber, Booyah, Heddon, XCalibur, and Yum lure companies and an avid, accomplished angler who's fished from Canada to Brazil.
"I'd probably pick Falcon, Amistad, Fayette County and Fork," he offered. "For all of those except Fork, I'd say that the major appeal is the combination of tremendous quality and quantity. Regarding Fork, it's pretty tough to argue with 35 of the 50 biggest bass ever caught in Texas."
Fork has indeed dominated the big-bass picture in Texas for years, and it and the others named aren't a bad set of choices for a fall angler to consider. But the idea here is to identify seven hotspots to fish -- so I'll throw Sam Rayburn, Ray Roberts and Conroe into the mix, and cite Alan Henry and Choke Canyon as promising autumn bets in their own right.
The truth is that the odds are pretty solid for a worthy springtime bass lake being equally good in the fall. Why? Samsel provided an answer.
"Fall is fun because a lot of fish tend to be shallow and feeding aggressively," he explained, "and the shad they feed on often give the bass away. A common challenge in the fall is that the fish can be very widespread, though, so I would fish quickly, hitting visible cover and working points and features along creek channels, all the while watching for shad flipping on the top or bass chasing baitfish." Shad tend to congregate in such spots (including major creeks) in the fall, and as Samsel indicated, shad fuel the fall bass fishing machine.
Sometimes the fishing's shallow, sometimes not. The key is to use your boat's electronics, identify where the fish are feeding and then adapt. "If the fish are shallow and running shad on top, the fishing is very visual," Samsel said. "However, the best fishing often is over points that stretch out to the creek channels, humps along the same channels and other underwater features up in the creeks. When that's the case, electronics are critical for locating structure, honing in on key features on structure and identifying depth ranges baitfish are using."
What baits does Samsel rely on at this time of the year? If the fish are up top, he'll start with a Heddon Super Spook Jr. in the Lake Fork Shad color. "I'll have a Spook Junior tied on one rod all the time during the fall and will keep it ready in case fish bust on top," he said. "I'll also throw it periodically, even if I don't see surface activity, because often it will draw fish up this time of year."
Other baits designed for the upper portion of the water column are XCalibur's Xr50 Rattle Bait and Xt3 Twitch Bait. Said Samsel, "Both are great search baits that allow you to work very quickly, and both imitate shad effectively. Pearl melon is an excellent color choice for either."
Having witnessed Samsel using such baits to catch 150-plus bass this past spring, I'd make sure my tackle box contained these gems this fall.
What if the bass aren't in the upper portion of the water column? In that case Samsel goes to a pearl-white YUM Houdini Shad soft-plastic bait. "Rigged with a weightless Texas rig, the Houdini Shad will prompt strikes from fish that won't quite come all the way to the top," he noted. "It's also an outstanding followup bait any time a bass busts a Spook but misses."
In cases in which the fish are working the shad over in the deeper water, Samsel will tie on a Bomber Fat Free Shad in the Bill Dance Citrus color pattern. "If the fish aren't on the shallow cover or I'm not catching the quality I think I should, a Fat Free Shad will likely be my first choice for cranking points and other features out in the creeks," he said. "Depending on bottom depths and the size of the forage, I might downsize to a Fat Free Shad Jr."
When you're looking for October bass at the previously mentioned hotspots or any other good bass lake in Texas, keep in mind that the schooling action that began last month can still be visible on top as the bigmouths continue their aquatic autumn blitz, ganging up in their schools to pack away the baitfish groceries.
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