Fall is one of the best times of year for bass fishing as many of the fish begin to follow the baitfish and spend their time feeding and nothing else. This time of year is also my favorite time to throw crankbaits because they allow me to cover water and find the most aggressive bass. I use a variety of crankbaits and the following are my top five crankbaits from shallow to deep-water fall fishing.
Lipless Crankbait – Yo-Zuri Rattl’n Vibe
The shallowest option for me would be the lipless crankbait. I start by fishing this bait right up on the bank on mud flats and in the backs of creeks and pockets. I use the 3/8oz size most of the time and fish the bait at a really fast pace. The key for me is to find bass chasing baitfish, but you have to be careful this time of year because the baitfish are often grouped up and if you find too many baitfish in the area it will not be as good. I like to see some baitfish activity and bass surfacing from time to time. If the shad are everywhere, the bass will have too many options and will be harder to tempt with an artificial lure when they have the real thing swimming all around them. When it comes to colors, I will use a chrome-colored bait when the sun is out and switch to a shad pattern if it is cloudy.
Rod: 7’3 MH Abu Garcia Veracity
Reel: Abu Garcia Revo Rocket. This is the fastest reel out there at 9.1:1 and really helps me cover water quickly.
Line: 15lb Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon
Squarebill: Lucky Craft LC RTO 1.5
The next crankbait I will use in the fall is a squarebill. I will back out deeper than the places I throw the lipless. Basically where I stop throwing the lipless, I’ll pick up the squarebill. I focus on channel swings, steeper banks with rocks and the edges of flats. The other thing that I look for this time of year is logs and laydowns. Many of the reservoirs in my region are drawn down during the fall, so the wood cover is very limited. If you find something with water still around it, the fish will be there since they do not have as many options for hard cover.
The 1.5 size squarebill is a great size to match baitfish and it also comes in both a rattling and silent version. I use both and will use the silent version if the water is slightly stained or clear. In muddy water, I’ll switch to the rattling version. I also adjust my colors based on the water clarity and will use a color called Copper Green Shad in clearer water and a white with black back in muddier water.
Rod: 7’ M Abu Garcia Veritas
Reel: I like a slower reel for squarebills than I do for lipless crankbaits. My choice is a 6.4:1 Abu Garcia Revo STX.
Line: 12lb Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon in clear and stained water and 15lb for muddier water.
Mid-Depth Crankbait: Bandit 200
This crankbait dives from 4-8ft and that range is a great place to catch all three species of bass during the fall. Smallmouth bass will especially key on that range this time of year. I back out farther towards the main lake compared to my squarebill spots and head closer to points. I like to find rocky points close to where I would use the squarebill, just closer to the main lake. My favorite color for clear water is Rootbeer and a Blue Splatter Back pattern for dingier water.
Rod: 7’ M Abu Garcia Villain 2.0 spinning rod. I prefer the spinning rod for this crankbait because it is a very light bait and you can cast it much deeper and with the lighter line it will get down deeper.
Reel: Abu Garcia Revo STX spinning reel in the 40 size
Line: 8lb Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon
Deeper Crankbait: Bomber Fat Free Shad Jr. (BD6)
As I begin to move deeper, I will use a crankbait that dives between 8-14ft. With this bait I key on main lake points and back out a little deeper than the places I use the Bandit 200. They are often the same locations; I just position the bait differently and cast to deeper water. Flat points and steep points both produce, I will hit them all and just “point hop” until I find the type of points fish are using that day.
Another good area is bridge pilings. There are so many targets to hit around bridges and bass will use them all during the fall. I bang this crankbait into the bridge pilings and also cast to the riprap walls that are often right next to the bridges.
This bait for me is strictly a clear- to stained-water bait and I feel that if the water is muddy, the fish will still be shallow and I will use one of the other baits I mentioned. With the clear water, I will use a Foxy Shad and a Citrus Shad pattern with this crankbait. Many brands make a color called Citrus Shad, but Bomber makes one that is different from the rest. It has a metallic, reflective hue to it and I really like that color this time of year.
Rod: 7’ M Abu Garcia Veritas
Reel: Abu Garcia Revo STX 6.4:1 gear ratio
Line: 10lb Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon to increase my casting distance and keep it in the depth range for a longer period of time.
Deep Crankbait: Strike King 6XD
I do not use a deep crankbait as much during this time of year, but there are times when you can find untapped schools of fish offshore and in deeper water since most of the rest of the anglers are fishing shallow. These offshore schools are harder to find and there are fewer of them than there are in the summer, but it can be done.
I look for ledges and humps and rely on my electronics to find the schools in 15-20+ feet of water. If the fish are less than 18 feet deep, I will cast for them and if they are deeper, I will use the long-lining method to get the bait to dive down to the 20-22 foot range.
The 6XD comes in rattling and silent versions and I will use both. I start with the rattling version to try for the most aggressive fish first and then will start using the silent version once the bite slows down. I use the Blue Gizzard Shad color if the water is very clear and the Chartreuse Sexy Shad if it is slightly stained.
Rod: 7’11 H Abu Garcia Veracity Winch Series
Reel: Abu Garcia Winch in the 5.1:1 gear ratio
Line: 10lb Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon
It is hard to beat a crankbait in the fall. This is a period of time when the bass are feeding on shad and minnows and, in my opinion, there is not a better baitfish imitator than a crankbait. Since bass are more predictable in the fall and are feeding on these baitfish, the crankbait allows you to cover water and find those fish that can be anywhere from 1-20 feet of water.