Bassmaster Elite Series pro Randall Tharp, talks about the fall feed of the bass. “The lakes are cooling off and all of the forage that the bass feed on will go shallow in the fall, typically migrating towards the backs of creeks,” explained Tharp. “Especially during this time of year, everything is keying in on the bait. Bait is probably the most important factor about fall fishing, but there is a difference in bait for fall as opposed to other seasons. “In spring, when we talk about baitfish, we talk about bluegill; but for fall, we are talking about shad, gizzard shad and threadfin shad. This will be the primary forage.”Every year the long, sun-scorched days of summer dwindle away and are gradually replaced by the shorter, cooler days of fall. To
Tharp sees locating the bait as the top priority in successful fall fishing. “Typically, in the summertime, most of the bait is in the main lake,” he explained. “Once the water starts to cool, the shallower the baitfish will go and the further back in the creeks it will go. It takes a little bit of effort to locate it, but when you do it will be worth the effort.”
Tharp begins his hunt for the bait in creek mouths and works his way back until it is located. “I just move back past the mouth, or halfway back or all the way back, until I find the scenario in which they are relating to it,” he said. “The water temperature can give you an idea of how far back they are, but for me, it is just best to start at the mouth and systematically work my way back.”
Once he has zeroed in on the location of the bait, Tharp will continue to run that location pattern in other creeks on the lake.
“In early fall, locating the bait can be frustrating, because it is more scattered; but as the temperature drops, it will be easier to find, because it congregates together usually towards the back,” added Tharp.
Tharp’s lure selection is chosen with the thought of mimicking the shad based forage that he discussed and the current conditions that he is fishing. His top-3 fall lures are a spinnerbait, a squarebill crank and a walking topwater bait. “In fall, all three of these baits will be tied on and ready on the deck of my boat,” he said. “I will pretty much rotate through those three until I figure out what the fish want.
“Early fall has conditions more closely related to summer and then as we move into late fall fishing, the weather isn’t usually as stable. The winter conditions are creeping in and effecting the days with more wind or more cloud cover. These are all things that I consider for lure choices.”
In lowlight, overcast or windy conditions, Tharp believes the spinnerbait is a standout, because of its added flash. “I would say a spinnerbait is a little louder,” he added. “It is not quite as subtle as a squarebill; so if you get a bunch of big waves or clouds, the spinnerbait will excel.”
Tharp’s starting blade choices for his spinnerbait are a gold willow leaf and smaller silver leaf in the front. “I barely deviate from that in the fall,” he added. “A 1/2 oz spinnerbait is a good starting point. If I am fishing super shallow, I will go to a 3/8oz and if I’m going super-fast, I will go to 3/4oz. I will scale down to tiny leaves, if the bass are keying on really small bait.”
Tharp throws a Terminator spinnerbait with a 7′ or 7’3″ Halo graphite rod. “This is a single hook lure, so I want a rod that will penetrate well, when I set the hook,” he explained. “I also want a longer rod for longer casts.” He adds a 6.4:1 reel.
“The squarebill is very versatile; it doesn’t really matter if it is calm or windy, it can be used in most all conditions,” he said. “With the spinnerbait and the squarebill, I like making contact with whatever cover I am fishing. Making contact and deflecting off of the cover will trigger a bite.”
Rocky shorelines, riprap or isolated boulders are also locations where Tharp would first consider a crankbait.
When fishing the squarebill, Tharp varies his cadence, letting the fish determine the best speed. “Sometimes they want it fast and sometimes slower,” he said. “A good rule of thumb is as the water gets colder, the retrieve gets slower.”
His preferred squarebill is a Storm Arashi. “It is a plastic bait that performs like a balsa bait,” said Tharp. “It is extra durable, because it is plastic. I fish this with a medium retrieve reel on a composite Halo crankin’ rod (glass and graphite). I like this type of rod as it is more forgiving, because it is not as fast of an action.”
On a calm, sunny day or when he observes any type of activity (busting or schooling shad), he leans towards a topwater lure – a walking bait, preferably, a Spook. “A topwater lure tends to be most effective around isolated wood cover at this time of year,” he said.
Tharp advises fishing the Spook on braided line with a monofilament leader. “It has made a huge difference for me,” he said. “I feel like my hookup ratio has gone way up with the braid/mono combination. I can make a way longer cast. Also, it is a lot easier (with braid/mono than with mono only) to take the slack up when the fish strikes.”
He uses 30 lb braid to a 17 lb mono leader that stretches 1 to 2 ft.
His retrieve speed is based on the fish. The more active the fish, the faster the retrieve. “If they are very inactive, I will not only slow down, but I will also make little pauses (walking it 2 or 3 ft, then letting it sit motionless for a few seconds),” he said. “I will time the pause to be near the cover. A fish that is living on that cover will have a little more time to decide to eat it, if I pause there.”
He uses a 7′, medium graphite rod with a high speed reel.
Three Feet Or Less In The Fall With Randall Tharp Fall2015 Bass Angler Magazine (Jody Only pg. 38 -39)
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