Late winter and early spring are usually the best times to catch bass when heavyweight female bass laden with eggs move shallower in preparation for the spawn. However, the biggest trophy bass I ever caught on my home waters of Lake of the Ozarks was during a Thanksgiving weekend tournament.
I was fortunate to win the tournament’s big bass pot with my 8-pound, 1-ounce largemouth bass because I had heard that two 8-pound, 3-ounce largemouths were caught the same day in other tournaments at Lake of the Ozarks.
Despite falling water temperatures in late autumn, big bass are still feeding heavily in preparation for winter. Here are three tips on how to catch late fall trophy bass.
1. Choose Trophy Bass Baits
I caught my big bass at Lake of the Ozarks on a clown-colored Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue. The suspending stickbait has always been a productive big bass bait during the winter, but I decided to use it in late fall because I thought a big fish might not have seen this particular lure yet. I knew Lake of the Ozarks bass had been pounded by anglers throwing spinnerbaits and buzz baits so I tempted that big fish with a different-looking shad imitator.
Waking a 3/4-ounce double willowleaf spinnerbait or slowly retrieving a buzz bait across the surface are two other productive tactics for trophy bass hunting in late fall. Jigs are always noted for catching big bass so try pitching a flipping or finesse style jig around shallow cover or dragging a football jig in deep water.
Bumping a Texas-rigged creature bait along the bottom is another effective technique for tricking heavyweight bass in the fall. Rig the creature bait on a 6/0 hook and match it with a 5/16-ounce tungsten worm weight for the best results.
2. Find A Trophy Bass Location
When searching for big bass in late fall, look for deep structure. You can occasionally catch big bass on isolated shallow cover, but there are always going to be trophy bass on deep structure that time of year holding anywhere from 12 to 25 feet deep. Key on spots in or near the main channel of the lower end of a lake where bigger fish seem to dwell. Humps and deep isolated pieces of cover that are hard to find with electronics are also top targets for bigger bass.
While checking out creek and river channels with your electronics search for isolated boulders, brush piles or anything irregular along the deep structure. Bigger bass always hang out around isolated cover because big fish would rather be by themselves. So when you look down a bank or a bluff and it is straight and then you have something that is irregular, there is going to be a big fish holding there.
On shallow lowland reservoirs trophy bass set up ambush points in the late fall along stumps less than 2 feet deep, yet the cover is still near deeper water of a creek channel. On lakes filled with aquatic vegetation, some of the weeds start dying in late fall, so key on the greenest plants to find the biggest bass then.
The presence of baitfish is also critical in hunting for late fall big bass whether you are fishing shallow or deep. Bass of all sizes relate to the massive schools of baitfish that usually migrate to the creeks and coves in the fall.
Baitfish and juvenile bass can still be found anywhere in a creek or cove during late fall, but big bass still seek an edge. The key feature to pinpoint for bigger bass is the creek channel or any ditch running through a cove or bay. Trophy bass are going to be associated with the baitfish schools that are hanging around the channel or ditch.
3. Think Quality Rather Than Quantity
Patience is the ultimate virtue when chasing a big bass anytime, but especially in the late fall. You must expect getting fewer bites when hunting for a trophy bass. In fact the bite from that big fish might be the only one you get that day.
Whenever I report on a bass tournament in late fall and I interview the winner who caught a five-fish limit of heavyweight bass I always ask him how many bites he had throughout the day. The most common answer is five bites.
Sometimes you will land a quality bass mixed in with your frequent catches of smaller bass, but most of the time you have to hunt for loners if you want that once-in-a-lifetime catch. You have to become disciplined enough to leave an area where you are catching 2-pounders on almost every cast, and head for a spot where you might have to wait an hour before you get a bite. But that one bite will be well worth the wait.
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