Slow down with fall fishing

Sept. 21 marked the first day of fall, although the feel in the air did not seem like it. As the calendar is about to turn another page on the year of 2013, anglers must remember a few keys things to keep their fishing success going into the fall season.

Fall here in central Iowa is a truly magical time. The water in our lakes and ponds become very clear, the backdrops of our favorite fishing spots are picturesque, and the fishing can be as good as any other part of the year. Most outdoors people turn to hunting this time of year, ducks, geese and soon deer will be the target of our free time, but fishing will stay in the forefront for those of us that do not partake in the annual fall hunts.

Fishing in the fall can be feast or famine for a lot of anglers. Those anglers that seem to be on the famine side of this equation more than not, forgot that Mother Nature turned the switch to fall. Anglers sometimes use the same baits that they relied on during August and July to catch their favorite species of fish. This can be a big mistake. Anglers that read each day and look at weather patterns can really fine tune their presentations and give the fish a bait that they might prefer.

Even though the weather has been fantastic and somewhat warm lately, Mother Nature has already cooled the water greatly. Night time temperatures have been dipping into the 50s quite often and even into the 40s a few times. This window of 10-12 hours a day of cooler air temperatures has brought the area water temperatures down around 60 degrees. A quick look into the 10-day forecast shows temperatures into the thirties at night. Summer might be hanging on strong, but one day, we will wake up and fall will be here. With these cooler temperatures, the water will continue to drop and drop quickly. This can do two things to all fish species.

The first thing that happens with fish species is a mode of panic, they eat as often as they possibly can. They know that winter is around the corner and their bodies need to “stock up” on food. This is basically the “honeymoon of fall,” when everyone seems to be catching fish, and it serves as one last frenzy for the year. Fish species tend to be less finicky during this time, and will often hit a variety of baits all in one day. During this time is a great chance to throw faster baits for crappies, bluegills, walleyes and bass. Faster baits in crankbaits or spinnerbaits, smaller for the panfish, and larger for the bass and walleyes. Fish also tend to come up shallow, use points and sandbars to eat as much food as they can also, providing anglers fishing from a shore a great opportunity to have a spectacular fall fishing day. This, however, doesn’t last very long.

Once the water temperatures get around that 50 degree mark, the fish tend to get very lethargic. This is the time when anglers need to make big adjustments to their baits and presentations, if they want to catch fish on a regular basis. I’ve always said, no matter what the circumstance, fish have to eat. I’ve caught just about every species available in the area lakes ice fishing, so that proves that no matter the species and no matter how cold it is, fish must eat. The key to getting bites after the temperature drops below 50 degrees, is slowing down, or surprising the fish into biting. The first, slowing down is a tried and proven method that works more than it doesn’t. The surprise technique, or reaction bites are less predictable, but can be great in the fall too. So, slow down, or try to get a reaction bite, that is the key to fall fishing.

Slowing down, again the best technique for fall fishing, can be done with soft plastics and jigs for most species. When choosing the baits of choice, remember the color of the water. It will most likely be the clearest it has been since early spring. The fish can see things much better, so make your baits more natural colors when you see clear water. Using live bait is also a great choice for panfish during this time of year. Minnows, small worms are a crappies and bluegills favorite target this time of year. If you don’t get bites quickly with live bait, then you are probably in the wrong area, or have your bait at the wrong depth of water. Vary your depth using a slip-bobber or move locations to find those lethargic fish. Using plastic craw baits, and tubes are favorites this time of year for bass. A slowly hopped tube is sure to tempt a bass into biting in the moth of October like no other plastic bait.

I have been looking forward to fall since Labor Day, and I am glad that the weather here in central Iowa is finally starting to feel that way. I know I will use every opportunity to get out and try for some fall bass and panfish, and I hope you find the time too.

Contact Todd Reed at and visit