Focus on high-percentage targets, pro says
Fall can be an unnerving time for bass anglers, as the fish seem erratic while transitioning out of summertime patterns. But Gonzales Bassmaster Elite Series pro Gerald Spohrer said that unpredictably is actually a misunderstanding.
“People think fish have gotten lethargic, but that’s not the case,” Spohrer said. “Basically what you have is fish will gang up, and then they break up and scatter.
“You don’t have fish doing this one thing. There are fish in all stages.”
The big mistake many anglers make, he said, is to try to catch all these bass. The best route to success during the fall transition is to focus on-the-water efforts.
“I look for groups of fish,” Spohrer said. “Instead of trying to fish for them all, I’m looking for groups of fish in the backs of the canals.”
That way he isn’t jumping from place to place to place chasing different groups of fish with vastly different patterns.
Admittedly, even the bass that are in the canals often will be scattered instead of ganged up on one spot, but Spohrer puts himself in position to spend more time catching those fish by simply ignoring every other possible pattern.
The underlying key to success is to cover as much of the canal as possible, no matter what lure he’s fishing.
Here are his go-to approaches — and the baits he uses — for this time of year:
“The vegetation is at it’s fullest in the fall,” Spohrer said. “(Bass) always relate to it.”
So the second-year Elite Series pro ensures he has a punching rig on his deck.
His choice is a Missile Baits D Bomb paired with a Delta Lures punching skirt beneath a ½- to 1 ½-ounce Beast Coast tungsten weight. He uses a 5/0 Strike King Hack Attack hook to ensure solid hookups.
The exact weight of the rig depends on the vegetation mat he’s working, choosing a weight that punches through the mat every time so he doesn’t have to worry about his lure hanging up.
“I don’t really like to think about a slow fall this time of year,” Spohrer said. “Fish tend to be more aggressive in the fall. When you find them, they’re feeding.”
Even though he’s punching vegetation, however, doesn’t mean he’s moving dead slow. In fact, going a little heavier on the weight helps because he can punch, reel in and punch again in short order.
“You still want to cover a lot of water,” Spohrer said. “I want to get through the vegetation; it’s not as weight critical in the fall.
“To me, it’s about efficiency.”
Everybody loves a good topwater bite, and Spohrer said the fall is when you can use a topwater throughout the day and still get bites. It’s just a matter of knowing where bass are more likely to blast a surface lure.
“As the sun gets up, I target shade pockets,” he explained.
He uses three topwaters:
• Sixth Sense Dogma walking bait
• Sixth Sense SplashBack popper
• Delta Lures buzzbait
Again, his priority is to cover water.
“The popper is more target specific,” Spohrer said. “You can slow down and work over a laydown or log, but it’s hard to cover water.
“You really have to stop the boat, but you can still get a big bite.”
So when he’s not trying to pick a specific piece of cover apart, he trades out the SplashBack for a Dogma.
“I can throw it over a long point and work the entire point quickly,” the angler said. “I can cover a lot of water with that walking bait.”
And when things get really trashy — say, there’s salvinia floating along a bank — he pulls out the buzzbait.
“A buzzbait is really versatile and covers a lot of water,” he said. “It seems to be the most efficient.”
The only other weapons he adds to his fall arsenal are a Delta spinnerbait and a Sixth Sense square bill.
But no matter what, the angler maintains focus on aggressive bass.
“I really don’t try to get finessy with them in the fall,” Spohrer said. “It really comes down to covering water and hitting high-percentage targets.”