Let’s Go Bass Fishing
Posted by Keith Bartlett
I was relaxing in a waiting area recently, picked up a fishing magazine and found an interesting article. It was a bass fishing story written in a format that described the angler’s experiences during a day on the water by the time-of-day when notable events occurred. I enjoyed the article, had seen many written this way, but had never written one. Coincidentally I was planning my first late-fall fishing trip for largemouth bass and decided it would be a good time to write a similar story. So follow along as I plan and take my first trip of the cold-water period for largemouth bass, our most popular game fish.
From late-fall through late-winter is my preferred time to fish for largemouth bass because fishing pressure on most waters is very light and the absence of recreational boaters reduces disturbance of the fish further. There’s a range of temperatures this time of year in which schools of bass move to predictable, often easy to find, types of structure. As temperatures fall through the mid-50’s, many largemouths move to and hold on steep drop-offs along primary channels close to shallow water. The steeper the drop and the more structure associated with it, both shallow and deep, the better. After the fish move and settle, they are most active during stable or rising temperatures but seldom move far from the drop-off except to change depths as conditions change. Combine this setup with favorable weather and water conditions and largemouth fishing can be very good, after you find the fish.
The body of water I chose to fish is a small river-run lake an hour away and one I frequently fish this time of year. The first thing I considered when I began planning my trip was water temperature. To estimate the water temperature on my distant planned fishing area I went to the two primary rivers that eventually feed the lake, both much closer to my home. The larger one flows from below a reservoir dam and the other is a smaller, free-flowing river. The larger river was surprising warm at 63.7 degrees and the smaller one was 48.4 degrees. Another check a mile or so below the confluence of the two confirmed the mixed water had stabilized around 56.5 degrees. I knew there were a few more small free-flowing streams joining the primary river further down, but upstream of my fishing area, so I estimated the water temperature there must be somewhere in the mid-50’s; ideal for late-fall fishing. My guess was correct because the water temperature where I started fishing was 55.2 degrees. I couldn’t have planned it better.
When I arrived at the ramp, air temperature was in the low-50’s and rising with mostly sunny skies and light winds. The barometer was stable but projected to begin a gradual drop during the afternoon. I would not be fishing under the influence of a new or full moon but a daily lunar feeding period was going to begin about two o’clock, close to the time when surface water temperature would peak. So the weather and conditions were ideal for November largemouth bass fishing and I felt confident as I prepared to launch my boat. I had several rod and reel combos prepped and ready for cold-water action including a medium-heavy spinning outfit with a suspending minnow lure, another with a hollow-bodied shad swimbait, a flipping combo paired with an Alabama Rig, and a medium-heavy baitcasting combo with a jig and pig. I also packed a small voice recorder so I could capture the details of my day as they occurred. After a long run to a steep channel-edge I knew should hold some fish, I lowered my trolling motor, grabbed my jig-and-pig combo and eased onto the down-current end of a one-hundred-yard-long section where I had decided to start. Water depth in the channel ran from twenty- to more than twenty-three feet but in the distance of a long cast the bottom rose to three-feet-deep along the edge of a large shallow flat. After pinpointing the top of the break-line I moved back toward deep water and when I reached twenty-one feet, turned the boat and made my first cast at 12:40 p.m.
1:14 p.m. – The line twitched sharply from my first strike of the day, but the fish wasn’t there on the hook set; a small fish perhaps?
1:32 p.m. – Another strike I could see and feel, but again, a swing and a miss. Was it something I was doing wrong or were the fish simply not active enough to engulf the lure? I became intensely focused on the jig as I slowly worked it down the steep incline.
1:55 p.m. – I lifted a one-pound-class largemouth into the boat, my first of the day. The strike felt like the other two except this fish fully engulfed the lure.
1:57 p.m. – I set the hook hard and my rod bowed deeply. Soon a large head broke the surface, shaking a wide-open mouth as a big fish tried to throw my jig. After a brief but exciting battle, I slid my landing net under a very nice largemouth. Four pounds and thirteen ounces later, I noticed my hand trembling as I admired the big fish. This bass went in the livewell for a few pictures later.
2:06 p.m. – My line twitched sharply, I set the hook and soon had a good keeper fish thrashing the surface. This bass was well over a pound and beautifully marked.
2:13 p.m. – I lifted a half-pound fish into the boat, the smallest of the day so far but no less welcome.
2:15 p.m. – A good pound-and-a-half bass struck this time and a tricky one it was. I had lifted and dropped my jig a couple of times and watched the line closely each time the jig fell. Then on the next drop, the line went slack immediately. I lifted again, dropped and the line went slack again. I realized a fish had picked up my jig and was swimming toward me so I quickly reeled down, set the hook and the fish was there. This bass was a good fighter because it jumped several times and put on an impressive show.
3:15 p.m. – I landed and admired another keeper-size fish, much like others I’d caught. I decided to stop fishing and weigh this one because it was a good representative size and my frequency of strikes had diminished. It weighed exactly one pound.
3:30 p.m. – I moved away from the channel break, returned to where I had started fishing and began casting my Alabama Rig along the face of the drop-off. After fishing through the area without a strike, I decided to move to a different spot along a distant riprap shoreline that dropped into the river channel at similar depths. Action had been good so far and only one other boat had shown and moved close enough to exchange greetings.
4:20 p.m. – A half-pound fish finally took my jig and was soon in hand. Other than one other small fish that followed my lure to the boat and tried to eat the pork frog off my jig, I had no other strikes along the riprap shoreline.
4:35 p.m. – I moved back to the channel break where I had started fishing for one more pass before quitting.
4:46 p.m. – A good pound–plus largemouth knocked the slack from my line and was soon in hand. I had one other light tap on the next cast but there was nothing there on the hook set.
5:20 p.m. – The sun has set, my boat’s on the trailer and I’m ready to start for home. I recorded eight bass caught in a little more than four hours with the largest pushing five pounds; a good day of fishing and start to the new season.
I enjoyed my first trip in many months to fish for largemouth bass and considered the outcome successful. The bass were grouped on traditional cold-water structure and responded well to the same lures and methods of presentation I’ve employed for many years to catch these fish under similar conditions. If you fill your deer tags early this year, I suggest you visit waters close to you that produce good bass fishing during summer and try this approach. Choose days when conditions are most favorable, search for fish along steep transitions where deep water contacts the shallows, use the same lures and tackle I’ve described and you too can enjoy some good largemouth bass fishing away from the crowds.
Posted on November 28, 2013, in Fall Fishing, Fishing Trips and tagged bass fishing, Best fishing conditions for bass, Cold water bass lures, Jig and pig fishing, largemouth bass, Largemouth bass in cold water, Modifying rubber skirted jigs, Pork trailers for bass fishing, Water temperatures for bass. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.