I won't do much fishing on Friday afternoons or on Saturdays, because I'll usually be at a football game somewhere, but I like to get on the lake because September is when bass fishing really starts to pick up. It's a month when fish start to transition between their summer patterns and fall patterns.
A lot of fishermen think the word "transition" means tough fishing, but it doesn't have to. It's true, bass will be moving from the deep places on the main lake where they spent the summer, toward the places where they'll spend October and November, but there are ways to follow their movements and ways to catch them.
Here in South Carolina, the weather can be just as hot in September as it is in August, but fish will still start to move. The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting longer, and even when it's hot, the water temperature will start falling. When that happens, the baitfish will start to move up, and when they do, the bass will start to move up, and they'll get more aggressive; losing daylight tells them that winter is on the way and that they need to feed more.
The other thing is, as the water temperature starts to fall, bass start to feed more because they're cold-blooded. Lots of fishermen relate bass being cold-blooded with them being lethargic during the winter, but they forget that they get lethargic in the hottest summer weather, and in August, we had days when the surface temperature was in the 90s.
Between the first and last of the month, fish will transition quite a bit. The baitfish, shad and blueback herring, will move up in the water column, and they'll start to move toward the creeks. The first of September, I'll fish a topwater bait early in the morning and a Buckeye mop jig the rest of the day. By the end of the month, I'll be fishing topwater baits all day long. A lot of people miss out on a lot of great topwater action because they put their topwater baits down when the sun gets up.
Topwater works so well because the baitfish are moving up toward the surface, and the bass are suspended under them, transitioning up and into the creeks. The thing that tells me the transition is about to take place is when I start to see schools of shad on the surface late in the afternoons on the main lake. When I see that, I know it's about to happen, and then I'll start to see shad every afternoon, moving off the main lake and into the creeks.
I love to fish topwater baits, and when I'm just fishing for fun and not worried about catching five quality fish for a tournament, I'm liable to just try to catch lots of fish, because it's really exciting to me to watch a bass to come up and smack a topwater bait.
As far as topwaters, I'll fish walking-type baits, popping baits and buzzbaits. They're all productive, and what you use depends on what you're comfortable fishing and the lake you're fishing. If I'm going fishing in September, I'm going to have rods on the deck with all of those baits tied on.
You'll look for the bass in different places depending on what kind of baitfish are involved Lake Murray, my home lake, has a lot of blueback herring, and herring lakes, like Murray, Clarks Hill and Hartwell, the bluebacks tend to stay out in the open water, and the bass will suspend under them.
If you know how to use your electronics the way I do my Humminbird side-imaging unit, you can look for bass suspended under the baitfish and see them. When you do, you just fish your topwater baits around the schools of baitfish at the surface. If you're fishing a lake like Wateree or Santee where the baitfish relate more to cover, you're going to be fishing around the cover, casting more at targets, because it will be more difficult to see the fish there. On a lake with vegetation, that's going to mean a buzzbait, because it's hard to drag a topwater bait with two or three treble hooks across that grass.
You're not going to be looking too far back in the creeks; that will come later in the fall. Once the baitfish start to move, I'll concentrate on the area from the mouth of the creek back about a third of the way. The big move will be into October and November, when they really get back in the backs of the creeks and things change.
But for now, take advantage of what September has to offer - which is plenty to the savvy bass fishermen.