September's a real-iffy month for successful bass fishing. The fish can be in transition, moving from shallow to deep, they can be schooling or they can be holding on bank cover. Regardless of where you're fishing this month, if you can find lily pads, you usually can catch bass. Ross Barnett Reservoir, near Jackson, is my September pick because it has plenty of lily pads.

There are three patterns that I've used to catch bass on Barnett in September. Let's take a look at all of them.

 

Schooling bass

You'll find some bass schooling in September, although the schooling activity will start winding down. I usually locate bass schooling above the Highway 43 bridge, especially in the mouths of the cuts and channels that flow into the backwater and sloughs off the lake. Almost any topwater bait will work when you find those bass schooling on the surface. I like prop baits and baits that you can walk the dog with, like the Zara Spook.

My favorite lure for catching those schooling fish is the Super Spook Jr. I like the size of the Super Spook Jr. because many of the bass that will be schooling are spotted bass, and this bait will catch both spots and largemouths. I prefer to fish a shad-colored Super Spook, either with a white belly or a clear belly, and I'll be fishing it on 12-pound-test Trilene fluorocarbon line with a Quantum 7:1 ratio bait-casting reel and a 6-1/2-foot, medium-action Quantum PT rod.

I'll work the Super Spook Jr. really fast. The bass are really active when they're busting schools of shad and feeding on the surface. Also, the bait's not just meandering along. They're scooting and swimming fast to escape. Therefore, if you want your lure to look realistic, you've got to move it quickly, just like the baitfish are moving.

 

Cranking can be a key

If the bass aren't schooling in these cuts, ditches and channels back into the backwaters, they're probably in the same locations, but not feeding on the surface. If I don't see schooling activity, I'll fish these same cuts with a crankbait. The mouths of the cuts and both points on either side of those cuts will be the most productive.

Also, cast up into the cut, and reel your crankbait right down the middle of the cut, especially if there's current. The fish will be holding in these cuts, feeding on the surface or feeding in that 3- to 5-foot depth, because the baitfish are using those cuts as their highways back into the backwater as the weather begins to cool. If there's a little current coming out of these cuts, maybe after rain falls, then your odds for catching bass drastically increase.

I like the Mann's C-4 crankbait with a blue back, pearl sides and an orange belly, which will run in that 3- to 5-foot range where the bass are. I'll be fishing that crankbait on 15-pound-test Trilene with a Quantum Paul Elias cranking rod and a 6.3:1 gear-ratio reel.

Once again, I'll be fishing that C-4 crankbait fairly fast. I like to really grind a crankbait and bounce it off underwater structure. In the fall, you'll get a lot of reaction bites because the bass are trying to feed up for the winter. Since they're opportunistic feeders at this time of year, many times they'll strike when they see erratic action from a baitfish and try to eat it, whether they're hungry or not. Also, feeding bass will be really active and won't mind chasing a crankbait.

When you hit structure with the crankbait, pause the bait for about 1/2-second. Then speed-up your retrieve like the crankbait's trying to get away from whatever cover it's just hit. Most of the time, the bass will take the bait when I speed it up to run away from the cover.

Expect to lose some bass when you're fishing a crankbait. To solve this problem, I change out the hooks on my crankbait. I put a No. 2 Gamakatsu treble hook on the front and a No. 4 treble on the back. Since the No. 2 hook is a little oversized, I put a smaller hook on the back of the crankbait, so those two hooks don't get tangled when I'm casting, or when the bait bounces off the cover.

 

Betting on lily-pad points

My third tactic for bass fishing in September is to fish the lily-pad points that come out toward the river channel at Ross Barnett. To fish these points, I use a Mann's Super Frog, a floating frog and also a Mann's HardNose Swim Toad. I'll be fishing the Super Frog fairly slowly, but when I'm fishing the Swim Toad, I'll bring it through the pads fairly quickly.

Mann's HardNose Snake is the third lure in my arsenal for fishing lily-pad points. I'll reel it across the tops of the pads much slower than I'll be reeling the Swim Toad. Most of the time, the bass will take the bait while it's still in the lily pads. If they don't take it then, they'll attack it when it leaves the pads, usually within about 3 feet off the points of the pads when the bait breaks out into open water.

The pads are starting to thin-out in September, so you'll be fishing around many-more stems and through more small openings in the pads than what you have earlier in the summer. One of the advantages to having these openings and stems is the bass seem to take the bait much better when there's less cover. As more of the pads die-off, I'll start fishing a buzz bait through them.

When bass fishing in the pads, especially with frogs and snakes, don't set your hook until you feel the fish on the line. Often the bass will splash the bait, miss it or won't get it all the way in its mouth. So hesitate just a moment to make sure the bass has the frog or the snake in its mouth before you set the hook.

I expect to catch 10-15 bass with these patterns during a good September day at Ross Barnett, including several 2- to 3-pounders and maybe a 5-pounder.

For more information on Ross Barnett Reservoir, visit www.mdwfp.com and type "Ross Barnett" in the search box.