I wait all summer for September, because in my opinion, that’s when bass fishing gets back to being good. You have shorter days, cooling air and water temperatures, and you finally get some relief from the summer heat — you can actually be more comfortable on the water.
As the water cools and fish get more aggressive, the topwater action gets better, and I love fishing topwater baits. To get in on the best fishing, I look to find shad and blueback herring. They tend to move into relatively shallow water sometime in September; they may not get all the way to the backs of creeks and ditches — that may come later in the month or into October.
I start looking around the main-river channel in early September, and this is when I get to take advantage of all the advances in electronics we’ve had over the past decade. Every year, we get better and better stuff, and it’s so important — no matter what body of water you’re fishing — to pay attention to your electronics and find the bait. I find the bait before I even make a cast, because bass are certainly going to be around the bait.
A lot of bait tends to be on the main channel in early September. Even though a lake can be 2 miles wide, you can usually find the old river channel with your electronics. I like to idle on both sides of the channel, looking for bait where the contour changes are, because you can go from some really deep water up to 20 feet. Later in the month, I’ll look back in creeks along the edges of creek channels.
You might find the bait in 20 feet of water in an area that’s 40 or 50 feet deep, or it can be in 5 or 10 feet of water over a 20-foot bottom. The clearer the water, the deeper the bait will tend to live, especially at the end of the summer. And your electronics can help you eliminate so much water once you find the bait.
How you fish depends on the depth you find the bait. If the bait is all down at 20 feet, I’ll be throwing deep-diving jerkbaits like a Shadow Rap Shad, a 360 GT swimbait, deep-diving crankbaits, or I’ll let a Senko flutter down. If the bait is closer to the surface, I’ll throw some of the same baits, but I’ll also fish a topwater.
I like to walk a Rapala Skitter B, but there are a lot of good topwater baits. How far a bass will come up to hit a bait depends on how clear the water is. It’s a visual bite. Fish will react to action at the surface; they might hear the noise, but it’s a visual bite. And everything changes if the water is stained.
I will set up over or around the bait. If you see it at 15 or 20 feet deep on your electronics, that’s great, but keep your eyes open for anything else happening around you. Don’t have tunnel vision. You’d love to have sea gulls around to mark fish, but they usually don’t migrate inland for a couple more months.
With a 360 GT or a Senko, you want to count the lure down to the depth where the bait and fish are. That’s something you have to learn, and it depends on the lake, the weight of your line, the weight of your bait, things like that, but you have to learn it. If the bait and fish are 15 to 20 feet down, you cast and let your bait fall to about 20 feet, then start the retrieve. I want to retrieve baits horizontally through the fish. You can also let a bait sink past them, below them, and then rip it back up through them. The whole key is to get the first one to bite. If you can, you can catch a few from the same spot. You might go 100 casts without a bite, then catch three on three casts. And baits in shad or herring colors are very effective.
Even though deer hunting and college football might demand some of your time this month, keep in mind that bass fishing might be an even better way to spend a Saturday.