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Bass In The Rivers
Moving waters mystify many lake and reservoir bass anglers. With a little effort to learn the current, you'll catch more and take your show on the road. (June 2007) ... [+] Full Article
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Texas Sportsman
The Pros Talk Texas Bass

Ken Cook, a veteran BASS pro and trained fisheries biologist, certainly knows a thing or two about autumn bass' "school days," as he spent plenty of his own school days in the classroom en route to his degree. That sheepskin eventually paved the way for a career with the state wildlife agency. A little more than two decades ago, however, he decided to move from studying fish as a scientist to catching them as a bass pro.

That move has certainly paid off, resulting in six career BASS wins, 14 appearances in the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, and more than $732,000 in career BASS earnings; add to that the receipts from his fishing activity on other tournament circuits, and you get a total of more than $1 million in career earnings deposited into his bank account. What he may be remembered for most, however, was passing the biggest test of his angling career by capturing the 1991 Bassmaster Classic crown on Maryland's Chesapeake Bay by just more than 1 pound. Take it all together, and it's obvious that Cook has achieved the status of one of the nation's best all-time anglers.

Cook's definitely got both the academic and practical qualifications necessary for talking a little bass fishing with anglers, then. Just call him "Professor" Ken Cook -- it's a role that he doesn't seem to mind taking on too much. "If I'm remembered for one thing," he said, "I want it to be for helping someone learn how to catch a fish."

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OK -- so how about the month of October as the bass carry on with making the transition from summer into fall and preparing for the coming winter?

"While there are lots of keys that are important at that time of year, first and foremost is the baitfish," Cook said, his agreement with Samsel complete. "And in most places in Texas, that is the threadfin shad, whose young of the year are the most dominant food source for bass at that time of year."

Speaking of baitfish: Cook believes that size can be a critical factor. "One of the keys is to match the size of the baitfish (with your lure)," he noted. "If they're 2 inches long, try to match it. Of course, that will change through the fall, since earlier in September they'll be really small -- around 2 inches. Later in the month, they'll be 3 to 4 inches. They can really grow quickly."

Of course, to match the proper size of the shad, you've got to find concentrations of them first. Cook echoed Samsel's advice on getting a clue as to where the clouds of baitfish might be: Use both your boat's electronics and your eyes.

"Look at the color of the water," he said. "If it's green or muddy, they'll be shallow; if the water is really clear, then they'll be deeper most of the day. You'll need to use electronics to find them in that part of the lake to locate the depth that they're holding at."

According to the biologist-turned-bass-pro, you should bear in mind that September and October represent a transitional period, and, as autumn unfolds, the bass are going to be on the move -- because their chow line isn't staying put. "The baitfish are going to move from main-lake areas to tributaries," he observed, "and that will affect where the best bass fishing is. By October and November, you're going to be fishing up a creek somewhere . . . "

Again, to reinforce this point from both Samsel and Cook: Find the baitfish in the autumn months and -- presto! -- you'll most likely have found the bass of whatever Lone Star State water you happen to be fishing. "If you're not seeing baitfish, you certainly need to be moving since sometime during day, they'll feed," Cook said. "The bass will not necessarily feed all day, but there will be a window sometime during the day where it will be easy."

What happens when that window is closed and bass aren't actively feeding? "The rest of the time, spend your time near cover that has baitfish around it," Cook advised.

Thanks to the largemouths' gregarious nature at this time of the year, it's quite frequently the case that where there's one autumn bass, there's likely to be another. "If you catch one, you should catch another," Cook said. "That's true in a lot of cases -- although you may not catch it on the next cast: You may have to come back later to try it again and get another bite. But there is always going to be another fish there at some point in time."

This principle is in action even when an angler pulls a bass from cover that looks only big enough to contain a single fish. "When you're fishing an isolated piece of cover, you never just want to make one cast," Cook asserted.

Take, for instance, a submerged log lying in the water. "Throwing spinnerbaits parallel to the log on its shady side would be my No. 1 choice," Cook suggested. "After that, try a crankbait, and after that, pitch a power tube. Try to catch all of the available fish off a piece of cover before you leave."

As for baits: In Cook's view, anglers can fish moving baits most of the time now. Since a bass will be either feeding or making a predatory strike at a lure that simulates an injured baitfish, the veteran BASS pro's own tackle selections include spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and crankbaits.

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