Fall Bass Fishing: Top 5 Baits

I love fall fishing! After a long summer the lake finally feels alive again. The baitfish are schooling, the bass are feeding, and the fishermen are wrapping up their tournament seasons. Whether you want to catch more bass, win the AOY race, or win a new boat, these 5 baits will get you headed in the right direction.

Its never easy to limit yourself to just 5 baits but if I had to choose one season to do it, it would be the fall. As the bass group up and feed they become much simpler to target than they were throughout the summer. In no particular order, my top 5 baits are as follows:

1) The jig: The bass are gorging before winter and one of their favorite meals is a crawdad. Stick to a simple craw profile and you'll succeed. There are a lot of great jigs out there including a plethora of colors, head designs, and colors but if I could only choose one it would be the Dirty Jigs 3/4 oz Pitchin' Jig in "Molting Craw". That color, coupled with either a Sweet Beaver-style trailer or a Twin Tail Grub-style trailer creates a phenomenal crawdad imitation.

2) The Spook: Walking-style topwater baits work great through all the summer months but their effectiveness peaks during the early fall. Bass are gorging on baitfish and baits like the super spook (see our video on the top 5 walking baits for ideas) are a perfect imitation. Choose a color you have confidence in but you can never go wrong with whites, silvers, or even a little chartreuse to draw the bass away from the 1000's of other easy meals swimming around. Try The Super Spook in "Okie Shad" or the Rover in "sooner" if you need a place to start.

Top 5 Baits for the Fall Transition

3) The Glide Bait: Glide baits have taken the industry by storm the last couple years. If you aren't throwing one this fall, you're missing opportunities for great fishing! I'm particularly partial to the S-waver in the 168 and 200 sizes in "Warden" or "Light Trout" (See our S-Waver Video and S-Waver 200 Video to see why) The S-waver is easy to use and won't break the bank but is by no means your only option. Check out the Gan Craft Jointed Claw, Smith Baits Hitch-X, or if you're in to the custom baits, the Hinkle Baits is hard to pass up. These are all baits that we've seen success with over and over again. They're big, but they get bit and fall is a great time to build your confidence!

4) The Deep Crank: Whether you're throwing a big 10XD, a Rapala DT-Series (because Ike says so), a slim profile like the Deep Six, or my old standby DD-22 you can't go wrong with a deep crank. We throw a lot of the shad patterns including those with lavender, chartreuse, or brown backs. We even branch in to the craws a bit. Whatever it is you choose, the deep crank will let you cast farther and reach deeper to catch those fish other anglers are overlooking.

5) The Lipless Crank: Who could possibly overlook this crank? Whether you're burning through the fading grass, fanning flats, or ripping off the bottom around docks and cover, the lipless is probably the most versatile bait during the fall. Again, stick to the shad patterns. If I could only choose one lipless it would be the Lucky Craft LV-500. Like many Western anglers I've discovered the benefits of the fast sinking, loud rattling bait. Try Chartreuse Shad, Ghost Minnow, Wakin if the fish are really active, or even Crack if the water has some stain to it.

What "Top 5" list would be complete without fudging and including some extras? Because 5 baits really is tough to do, the rest of the baits that really should have made the cut are the Swim Jig (California Swim Jig to be exact), the Flutter Spoon, The Jerkbait (ripbait if you live on the west coast), and the paddle tail swimbait (I'd go with the 6" basstrix or 4.8 Keitech on a Dirty Jigs Swimbait head).

Put these baits to work for you and have a great fall. Good luck out there!

Is your favorite bait on the list? Did I miss something? Let's hear what's on your top 5 list.

Part 1: Why You Should Use Braided Line

In much of the country, braided fishing line has been extremely well received. Anglers have found that its easier to feel baits, get strong hooksets, and haul fish out of heavy cover. Despite the overall acceptance there are still a few places where it is viewed as overkill, accused of unreliability, and some fishermen even blame it when they're not catching fish. Even after decades of successful use some anglers still hold out.

I really believe the misconceptions about braid come from a lack of education. I remember sitting in a seminar listening to an angler talk about braid and genuinely believing he was lying to me. I've been there, I've felt it, so its easy to understand how some guys still make those same mistakes.

I filmed this video several years ago but the information is still so relevant. After several years of experimentation and on the water experiences I still agree with every word in the clip.

For those that are ready to learn, allow me to introduce you to how simple it is to make the transition to braided line. This is such a great topic we're going to break it down in to two parts. Today in Part 1 I'll discuss how to adjust your equipment. In Part 2 we will cover how to adjust your terminal tackle including an explanation of leaders, knots, and superline hooks.

Matt's favorite braids for swimbaits (p-line), frogs and flipping (Power Pro) and jigs or finesse fishing (Sufix 832)

Let's dispel some myths:

Most anglers are afraid that switching to braid will cost them a lot of money. Whether it be the actual cost of braided line, the cost of new rods/reels, or just some perceived expense, this is a real concern. Let me dispel it by saying, DON'T BUY NEW RODS. The gear you have is perfect for braid. Instead of buying new gear simply experiment with slightly softer rods for each bait category. (use a medium where you used to use a medium heavy, or a heavy instead of an extra heavy.) As for cost of braid, its often a non-issue because you may only spool a reel 1-2 times per year.

Another concern is that braid can only be used in murky water. This simply is not true. I've successfully fished braid (with and without a leader) in water with 20-40 feet of visibility. Its important that you understand each style of bait you're throwing. If the bass is keying on the bait (reaction) they generally will not be bothered by the visible line. If the fish is studying the bait before committing then visibility is an issue but can easily be solved by tying a leader of mono or fluorocarbon. In addition to concealing the line, the leader will also act as a buffer and shock absorber. Shock absorption is key to keeping fish hooked when the battle comes close to the boat.

Tim and Matt with handfuls of bass that were easily landed on 20-30 lb braided line

Finally, braid isn't just for power fishing. While heavy cover is where braid found its niche, its expanded to every corner of bass fishing. Whether you're throwing a walking topwater like a Spook for suspended fish, or dropshotting 50 feet deep in a clear reservoir, braid will improve your catch rate. The line is extremely responsive, even over great distance. This allows you to feel more bites, set the hook more easily, and work baits without as much physical effort. The finesse applications for light braid are endless. The deeper the water, the lighter the lure weights, the more dramatic the benefits will be.

Making the transition can be a little scary at first but take the step. Choose a rod or two and take the leap! In part two I'll show you the knots you need to know, how to set up leaders correctly, as well as some quick tips on hooks to get you headed in the right direction. Its time to take the leap and experience what you've been missing!


Lure Retrievers: How to Save Money

Nearly every bass boat I've ever climbed aboard has had some kind of lure retriever laying in the back of a locker or under a console. They're usually covered in dust and it seems that every guy has a different name for them. Whether you own a hound dog, bait knocker, plug knocker, pocket knocker, an extendable pole, or just a plain old lure retriever, its time to learn how to use it.

We all own retrievers but I almost never see guys use them. What is it that compels us to break off jigs, crankbaits, texas rigs, even swimbaits, without so much as a second thought? I think the answer lies in a lack of education.

A lure retriever is one of those contraptions that really ought to come with an owner's manual. Between the pretty pictures and your choice of 8 languages we could all start saving money on baits! Until that happens, this video is going to have to suffice.

Matt Shows off a Jewel Baits Hound Dog, an $8 contraption that has single-handedly saved nearly $1000 dollars in swimbaits in the past two years alone.  

We've broken the video down in to sections and will show how/when to use the traditional bait knocker (with or without chains), the extendable pole style, and the pocket knocker style retrievers.

Once you've seen the proper technique it becomes very simple to get your baits out of snags. At the very least, start carrying the pocket knockers with you when you fish. It takes an extra 10 seconds to slide one down the line and it gets the vast majority of your baits out of snags with just a shake of the rod tip. Its not a silver bullet but these techniques save us thousands of dollars every year. If you're not putting a retriever to work for you, you're throwing money down the drain.

Top 5 Topwater Walking Baits

In 1939 the first plastic "Zara Spook" hit the market. After more than 80 years it has undergone quite a few changes but it is still the most prevalent walking bait on the market. Until recently, there were not a lot of competitors in this category but seemingly overnight the flood gates have opened.  With significant sections of wall space in every tackle shop covered in walking-style topwaters its difficult to know where to start.

Even we had a difficult time narrowing it down to just 5 baits. Frankly, we fudged a little in the end anyway but who can blame us? You may be surprised by the list we came up with. There were some baits omitted that definitely would have made the cut if their availability were different but you can't make the list if no one can get the baits!

In no particular order our list of top 5 baits are as follows:

Top 5 Walking Baits

The Super Spook: Can you blame us? Its the bench mark! They are in virtually every tackle box (including ours) and have earned their place. I lost count of how many big bass I've caught on the spook!

The Rover: The Rover is a fairly new addition to the list but it has earned its place. On multiple occasions I have been able to "fine tune" my pattern and catch bigger fish by switching to a rover. Here's a tip... get the "tuned" version by Scott Martin, you won't be sorry.

The Vixen: While sporting the same body style as a rover, the high-pitch sound emitted is completely different. The recent prices on EBAY, if nothing else, show the power this bait holds over bass (and fishermen). Now that they are widely available again this bait should be added to your arsenal.

The Gunfish: With its unique cupped face and slender body the gunfish has a unique spitting action that turns followers into biters. I sometimes wish they had more than two hooks on the smaller models but the fish eat it, it cannot be denied.

The popper: (I told you we fudged a little but to narrow it down were talking about the Yellow Magic, Rico, and Splash It) How does a popper make a list of talking walking baits? Easy! Try it and you'll find out! They walk, they move water, and they get eaten just like they're larger relatives. If your fish are finicky, especially in shallow water, walk a popper. Its an action they rarely see and they will ERUPT on it!

Wakebaits: Different Styles and Retrieves to fool Finicky Bass

Clack, clack, clack, clack, KABOOM! You set the hook, the line stretches, the hooks dig in, and the surface of the lake erupts with an explosion of water, bass, and treble hooks. The battle is on and you're praying your knots, hooks, and line hold up to the fight. Moments later you're holding a huge largemouth, the large topwater still hanging from her mouth.

If you've ever experienced the way a bass draws out of cover, tracks, and erupts on a wakebait, you already have the sickness. Those bites are what makes us bass anglers get up at 3 AM, drink gas station coffee, eat pastries before sunrise, and launch our boats before any sane person would even consider shedding their sheets.

The trouble with wakebaits is simple, they're expensive! So what do you do? Do you buy them all, spend years fishing them, sell the ones you don't, take huge financial losses, all in hopes of finding the perfect combination of baits? Oh wait... I already did that for you!

A few of our Favorite Wakebaits

After all the years, the $$$, the dissapointments, and the surprises, I've weaned my collection of wakebaits down to just a few models. Even simpler than that, I have eliminated all but two "styles". From my time on the water I've found that if I can find a bait with a single joint, coupled with a diving lip and a double-jointed bait without a diving lip, I can cover nearly every situation that calls for a wakebait.

Better still, there are baits that fit both these categories that are both widely available, and fairly inexpensive. They are the MS Slammer (7" or 9") and the Spro BBZ-1 Floater (8"). I'm not saying they're the best or the prettiest but both of these baits catch fish in a huge variety of conditions and won't break the bank along the way.

If you're thinking of getting in to wakebaits or even considering pairing down the arsenal you already own, give these baits a try. You'll be surprised how well they work!

Soft Body Frogs: Everything You Need to Know

"Soft-body Frogs" is such a huge category but is often overshadowed by Hollow-Bodied Frogs. Let's start with why you need them and then I'll give a more detailed definition of what they are.

When you think of soft-body frogs think "soft buzzbait". These are the 4x4, go anywhere, do everything, come back unscathed, topwater bait. You can throw them through tullies, over slop, on timber, in grass, and they will paddle their way back to the boat. When the cover gets nasty, when you get tired of picking grass off hooks, out of blades, or dealing with snags, its time for the soft-body frog.

So what are they? First off, its a plastic bait that is solid-bodied. Second, it has one or more "kicking" feet that help the bait rise to the surface and create action as it is steadily retrieved on the surface. Third, it has no additional appendages or it becomes a "creature bait". Lastly, it has no hook. It will need to be texas-rigged with some sort of  after-market hook.

Most soft plastic brands now produce a soft-bodied frog. So what makes one better than another? It comes down to two variables: Sound and Speed.

From Left to Right: Strike King Rage Tail Toad, Rage Tail Shad, Stanley Ribbit, Zoom Horny Toad, Sizmic Toad

From Left to Right: Strike King Rage Tail Toad, Rage Tail Shad, Stanley Ribbit, Zoom Horny Toad, Sizmic Toad

Each frog has a unique sound and action. Its important to explore different "sounding" baits to find what your fish want. As a rule of thumb the baits with thicker feet (Rage Tail for example) will create a louder, more violent sound while those with thin feet (Horny Toad for example) tend to be much more subtle.

Additionally, the thicker the feet on a bait the more quickly they must be retrieved to create the desired sound. If the bait it making a subtle sound it can generally be retrieved much more slowly than a loud bait and still make the proper sound. This is so often overlooked and is CRITICAL to why some baits get bit more than others. We're so keyed on sound and action we don't even notice that one bait has to go nearly twice as fast as the next. No wonder the bass aren't eating all the baits, all the time!

You'll need to explore a few models to find what works best on your waters but a great place to start is the Rage Tail Toad, Zoom Horny Toad, and Stanley Ribbit. These 3 baits will cover the gamut of sound and speed so you can get a feel for what your bass prefer and you won't break the bank trying to dial in the pattern.