When the nights start cooling down, Missouri’s bass fishing starts heating up. The annual shad migration to shallower water has already started.
As you head up the rivers and big creek arms of the major reservoirs you will find them, threadfin and gizzard shad, sometimes acres of them.
Why do shad matter? Well, if you find the shad, you will find the bass.
With so much natural food, it can sometimes be a little difficult to fool bass with artificial lures, so I have included a photo (see upper right of page) of some of my fall favorites.
This time of year it is not so important to “match the hatch” as it is to find lures that the bass will react to – ones that will make them attack. I like noisy lures in the fall, and lures that will get the bass’ attention and then a reaction strike, even when there is such a large amount of natural forage available.
Topwater lures like a buzzbait are reaction lures, something noisy and fast. A shad-colored chugger spitting, gurgling, and pushing water at the surface may be what it takes.
If it is windy, I like to fish a spinnerbait. I fish it fast and erratic. If the water is a little calmer, I wake the spinnerbait just under the surface making the water bulge without breaking the surface. A stop and go retrieve can be deadly.
If there is a lot of brush and cover, a Jewel Swim It Jig with a shad trailer can be worked through the heavy cover and allowed to stop and fall into fishy looking territory.
My favorite fall shad bait is the Silverado colored ½ ounce rattle trap. I “burn” the rattle trap quickly past wood cover causing the bass to make a split second decision, do I eat it or not?
While so many others are heading for the woods this fall, you may just find that you have the water to yourself!
Scotty Pauley is a professional fisherman and the Missouri Division of Tourism’s outdoors expert.