The cold chill from the early morning boat ride was still numbing the bones when the small white-skirted spinnerbait made its first splash of the day.
It was a good cast, 10 yards deep into the pad field, presenting a perfect retrieve past a few standing stems and a few scattered pads. The idea was to pull the small bait around the stems and under the broad green pads that...
SPLOOOOOSH! Water boiled beneath the second pad and the blades quit turning with a jerk.
“Fish on,” I called to my partner, who turned to see the cause of the commotion.
The bass, which made one jump completely out of the water, was now digging deep and trying his best to wrap the line on a pad. He was successful.
“Fish off,” I said, with a laugh. “I never turned his head.”
That’s fall fishing on Barnett Reservoir, and it is like that statewide. Boy, is it ever fun.
Falling temperatures will cool the waters in the near future, pulling bait fish, like Barnett’s shad out of the deep open lake into the shallows. Bass, of course, will go with the shad and will roam the shallows fattening up on the abundant food supply.
Lily pads will start turning brown and dying, providing the perfect ambush points for the bass. When the shad leave the lake or the river for the backwaters, bass lie in waiting.
Fishermen have many choices, and most of them choose a topwater bait like a frog, hoping to illicit a violent surface strike.
A few, mostly the old-timers, will stick by a pattern that has proven its value over decades of consistent catches — a small quarter-ounce tandem-bladed spinnerbait with either a solid white or white/chartreuse skirt.
Jimmy Lindsey was the first to teach me the trick. We spent whole days in the fall easing through the pads and tossing the lures.
“You'll see guys out here throwing big spinnerbaits all the time, but I've always believed that in the fall, a small-bladed one works best,” Lindsey would say, and then he would prove it.
His little lures worked, and Lindsey pulled a lot of 4- and 5-pounders in, which is what got my attention. It was a lesson that I have never forgotten.
That’s why I still have a bunch of ¼-ounce Mr. Hooty and ¼-ounce Redneck spinnerbaits, relics of the past. I fish them without a trailer, to keep the small profile.
On one trip last October, my partner and I boated and released 25 bass. We hooked and lost that many more, having them wrap the line around the thick stems. We tried other lures, from swimming worms to flukes, from frogs to buzzbaits, and even spinnerbaits with bigger blades. Nothing worked like the small blades.
When the surface temperatures start falling, the pads will fill with bass. For the first time in months, you will be able to fish all day comfortably, and by its end, if you're lucky, your arms will ache.
Where: Lakes with pad fields, like Barnett Reservoir. Fish the big pad fields, concentrating on the outer edges and pad points with standing stems and scattered pads. Look for any irregularity in the pads.
When: Mid-September through November.
Lures: A ¼-ounce spinnerbait, with small tandem blades and white or chartreuse/white skirts.
Tackle: Back in the 70s, it was 17-pound mono line or more, but now 30- to 50-pound braid with about two feet of 15-pound fluorocarbon leader on medium-heavy or heavy rods will work in the abrasive pads.
Technique: Make short casts, because a hookset at more than 10 yards is not very effective. Plus at long range, the fish controls the fight and will likely wrap you. The later in the season it gets, the more the fish will move to the edges. Start at the outside and work your way in. Most of the fish will be within the first five yards, waiting to ambush baitfish.