September is the first month when bass fishermen across the Carolinas get the chance to target fish that are moving back into shallow water, and I can’t wait. Because I’m normally fishing shallow this month, I am always going to have three different baits tied on: a square-billed crankbait, a jig and a spinnerbait.
Shad start to move out of the main lake and back into the creeks in September when the water first begins to cool, and I’ll start fishing from the mouth of the creeks about halfway back. You can usually count on the big move taking place by the middle of the month, and they’ll get back farther as the month progresses.
While they’re moving back, bass are moving shallow. I’m going to be running shallow areas, fishing the best available cover, whether that’s grass, wood or rocks. A lot of our lakes have some sort of emergent grass in the shallows: water willow, gator grass, even eel grass. I’ll run baits through that grass if I can find it.
Make sure you’re fishing a creek that’s holding bait. Not every creek will in the fall, but the bait is easy to find, either on your electronics or just by getting out late in the afternoon and seeing the shad on the surface. The bass are going to be in creeks where the shad are living. Sometimes they’ll be on flat banks, and sometimes they’ll be on steep banks.
Square-billed crankbaits are good when you’re fishing very shallow. Right at the beginning of the month, I might be fishing something like a Rapala DT-6, but as the month progresses, they tend to get shallower, and I might wind up catching them in a foot or water or 4 feet. I’ll turn to a DT Flat 3, which is a little flat-sided bait, or a DT Fat 3. I may use a smaller or larger bait, depending on the depth I’m fishing, and I may go with several different colors, depending on the water clarity. In general, I stick with a shad or shad-herring color.
I’ll fish little square-billed crankbaits on a 7-foot, medium-action Bass Pro Shops cranking rod. That’s a composite rod, glass and graphite, which is perfect for fishing crankbaits. I’ll spool 12- to 14-pound XPS fluorocarbon on a Johnny Morris Signature Series baitcasting reel — I may go up to 17-pound test if I’m fishing grass that’s really thick.
I’ll work the the cover with a crankbait, and if I get a few bites in a stretch, I’ll slow down and start fishing a jig for bigger fish. I’ll fish a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce Buckeye mop jig in brown with a green pumpkin trailer. I may add a little chartreuse to the trailer if the water is a little stained. I’ll get my bigger bites in the fall on a jig.
Because I’m mostly making short casts and pitches, not really flipping, so I’m fishing the jig on a 7-foot, medium-heavy BPS Carbonlite baitcasting rod, the Johnny Morris reel and 17- to 20-pound XPS fluorocarbon.
Now, the last bait I throw in September is a spinnerbait, a War Eagle with either double willow-leaf blades or a single willow-leaf and a Colorado blade. If there’s a good stain on the water and I want more flash, I’ll go with the double willow-leaf — less stain, the other one. I like the sexy shad color, and I like War Eagle’s “mouse” color, which is a gray shad. I’ll fish spinnerbaits on a 7-foot, BPS Carbolite rod, the same reel spooled with 14- to 17-pound XPS fluourocarbon.
I’ll work a spinnerbait or a square-billed crankbait in a lot of the same situations, but one thing I really like to do is find some grass that I can get a spinnerbait through, and I’ll cast back in the grass and wake it, keep it up high just below the surface. You’re trying to create a reaction strike, because with 10,000 shad all around, you’ve got to do something to make a 5-pound bass want it.
But you can get away with fishing square-billed crankbaits and spinnerbaits around cover in the Carolinas because mostly, the cover we have in our lakes is sparse. We don’t have the thick mesquite bushes they’ve got in Texas, or the matted hydrilla that lakes in other areas have.
So get on the water once you get out of the dove field and make something happen. Have these three baits tied on, and you’ll be ready for most of the situations that present themselves.