For fall fishing, your worst enemies are your bad habits.
Fall fishing has the potential to be enormously productive. The most important word there is potential. Fall fishing can be great, if done right. Otherwise, you’re wasting your Saturday on the second dullest thing in the world after watching paint dry—watching a slack line float in the water. Sound like a bad time? Here are four mistakes to avoid.
1. Keeping Your Spring Rig
The first rule of fall fishing is to chuck out everything you used in the spring, except for the rod and reel. If you’re fishing trout, you need longer leader, up to 15 foot. The low, clear water is going to light up your line and put off the fish. You’ll need to supplement your flies, too. Ants and terrestrials become bigger factors in the fall. When the mayflies are hatching they’re smaller, and the hooks need to scale down accordingly.
For bass, scale up. Fall bass are gorging themselves on the baitfish that were too small to catch their eye in spring and summer. Pretty much the full range of lures will be effective depending on which baitfish are most active. Frog imitations get their moment to shine in the fall fishing season. Amphibians are moving to the lake in large numbers to hibernate, and bass take notice. They spend more time feeding in shallow waters, so lures that run near the top are a must-have.
2. Failing to Track the Weather
The second rule of fall fishing is to take everything I said above and chuck it out when a cold front blows through. Terrestrials become less important for trout after cold weather sets in, and if it’s rainy too they need to be finished with streamers. For bass, scale your baits down again—they’ll be too lethargic to go for a large meal, but small and easily digested food will still catch their attention.
In general, keep water temperature in mind. The colder the water gets, the deeper the fish will go. Besides your targeting, that will influence your retrieval. Your retrieve should slow dow the farther the fish are from the surface.
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3. Spooking the Fish
You should always be conscious of staying out of sight. Fish have better eyesight than they get credit for. More importantly, bass and trout are both close to the top of the aquatic food chain in most of their habitat. Predators come from above, and that’s where they’re looking. Water levels drop in fall, and the water gets clearer, and staying out of sight becomes a top priority.
4. Targeting the Same Cover
Cover is as important in the fall as it is the rest of the season, but bass discriminate between different kinds of cover. Green weeds are known to be an important fish-holding structure in the fall. They move deeper into the weeds as it gets colder, so cover-punching Carolina/Texas rigs come in handy.
Rocks can also be productive. Rocky ledges are always a reliable fish-holder, but rocks also hold heat longer, making them a shelter from cold water.
So when you go out this fall, try to avoid these bad fishing habits. You will reel in more fish to fry at the end of the day and won’t feel silly for making these four mistakes.