October 12, 2011
By Matt Straw
Lot of talk this fall about what to do during these unusual warming trends. The thing to do is reverse your field, like a tailback running toward a world of hurt in the direction the play is designed.
Go back to what worked all summer. Doesn't matter what species you're talking about — walleyes, bass, pike, muskies, trout, etc. They all react pretty much the same way. If migrations have started, they stop. If the fall feeding binge was underway, it will slow down. If fish were beginning to move deep, they might move back into shallow water. For the most part, fish just stop and stay right where they are until things start cooling down again.
Something about a long warming trend in fall makes fish lazy, as if nature announces a break from the usual work schedule. When water temperatures actually go up instead of down during October, trends reverse themselves. Take the river bass we've been talking about. All those crankbait antics slow right down and eventually fade out altogether. The hot tactic for me during this warming trend has been the same one that worked best all summer — swimming 4- to 5- inch Kalin's and Berkley grubs slowly near bottom on 1/8-ounce jigs. In other words, I reversed my field and turned a sure loss into a first down.
Actually, it's an interesting dynamic that replays itself every fall, warming trend or not. In the case of a warming trend, the bass will go back on crankbaits, rattle baits, and spinnerbaits briefly when the water begins to cool off again. During a normal fall, when temperatures slowly, steadily retreat, the aggressive baits gradually give way to football heads with craws and spider grubs or a swimming grub as water temperatures drop below 50°F. As water temperatures drop into the low 40°F range, we have to slow the crawl of that football head or go to drop-shot rigs and float-and-fly tactics. At 38°F, I can no longer catch smallmouths in the Mississippi River on anything other than a float-and-fly. At that point, a 6-pound smallmouth will watch a healthy sucker or chub drift past without moving. At least, that's been my experience for the past 20 years. That could change. Nothing surprises me with smallmouths any more.
But the point is, reverse field when the water warms in fall. Go back to the most productive techniques you were using that employed plastics at a slower pace during late summer. Always works for me.