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It’s time somebody set the record straight regarding fall bass fishing in the North, where misconceptions run deeper than a Minnesota snowdrift in January.

Indeed, autumn arrives much earlier in the northern-tier states. It brings with it crisp nights, blustery days and plummeting water temperatures. Those fabulous feeding frenzies triggered by cooler waters end abruptly when lake temperatures flip-flop and the bass seemingly disappear.

For many anglers, the onset of cooler weather is a signal to put away their boats and go hunting or become couch potatoes until spring rolls around. Too bad, because they’re missing out on some of the year’s best fishing.

Just ask Steve Clapper of Lima, Ohio, who combines duck hunting with bass fishing. Or talk to Greg Mangus of Fremont, Ind., who fishes year-round, or pro anglers Kevin VanDam of Michigan and Michael Iaconelli of New Jersey, who agree that late fall ranks right up there with early spring as a big-bass season.

“One of the biggest myths in bass fishing is that the fish go deep and dormant when the water temperature plunges below 50 degrees,” says Mangus. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s when the fishing for quality Northern bass gets good.”

Clapper proves that point every November on Lake St. Clair near Detroit. About the time Canadian mallards begin to show up, largemouth bass are schooling in the man-made cuts and channels off the many rivers that feed the lake.

“We shoot ducks in the morning and catch bass in the afternoon,” he says. “We catch them right against the cattails — even in blinding snowstorms — and 100-fish days aren’t out of the question. People will think I’m crazy, but it’s true.”

Misconceptions about late-season largemouths aren’t without substance. Because most of today’s how-to bass literature is based on fishing experiences in the South, where bass are highly sensitive to cold-weather conditions, it’s natural for Northern anglers to draw similar assumptions. But the truth is, Northern largemouths are more resilient to winter-like weather.

“No doubt about it,” says Iaconelli, who probes Northeastern lakes when he’s not touring the Southern bass circuits. “One thing I’ve noticed since turning pro is how Northern bass are more active during cold-weather conditions than bass are in the South.”

It’s true that shallow bass activity slows down following the fabulous fall feeding frenzy. But the fish don’t go far, regrouping on nearby structure and still making brief forays onto the flats. And while vertically fished lures can outproduce the fast-movers at times, popular summertime lures such as crankbaits and spinnerbaits may bring in the biggest fish of the day.

Fishing buddy Mike Cottingham and I discovered that a decade ago while fishing a small southern Michigan lake under slate-colored November skies. Northern winds sliced through our winter clothes and sleet peppered our faces. We’d caught a few bass on jigs tipped with pork frogs, but we’d gone an hour without a bite.

“Don’t laugh at what I’m about to do,” I said while tying a Rat-L-Trap lipless crankbait to my line. “Maybe the fish have moved up and I can make them bite.”

My first cast onto the shallow flat produced a nice largemouth, and then another, and then a five-pounder. The fish were so shallow I had to hold the rod high and crank the reel handle quickly to prevent the lure from snagging scattered grass on the bottom.

So much for the theory that bass don’t go shallow or won’t chase baits in early winter.

** Follow Fall Movement**
Fall feeding binges begin when water temperatures tumble and bass move shallower. By October, bass in most Northern states are in varying stages of the fall migration toward the banks.

October water temperatures can range from the low 60s to low 50s, a period when bass scatter on big flats between the shoreline and the first major drop-off. On natural lakes, they’re relating to the weeds, even though much of the heavy vegetation has begun to die off.

“Fish know winter is on its way and are feeding for longer periods,” says VanDam, a three-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year. “Cooling water draws forage shallow, and since the cover is dwindling, minnows and crayfish have fewer places to hide. Bass are there for the easy pickings.”

A few fish still can be found in marshy areas, such as around lily pads and cattails, especially those adjacent to drop-offs. However, the majority of the bass will relate to the shallow side of weeds growing nearest the drop- off as temperatures fall. “The most aggressive bites occur during the middle of the day on sunny days, or during the low-pressure systems that occur just as a front is approaching,” explains VanDam. “Believe it or not, that’s when you can experience some incredible buzzbait and spinnerbait fishing over those weeds.”

** Follow Fall Movement**
Fall feeding binges begin when water temperatures tumble and bass move shallower. By October, bass in most Northern states are in varying stages of the fall migration toward the banks.

October water temperatures can range from the low 60s to low 50s, a period when bass scatter on big flats between the shoreline and the first major drop-off. On natural lakes, they’re relating to the weeds, even though much of the heavy vegetation has begun to die off.

“Fish know winter is on its way and are feeding for longer periods,” says VanDam, a three-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year. “Cooling water draws forage shallow, and since the cover is dwindling, minnows and crayfish have fewer places to hide. Bass are there for the easy pickings.”

A few fish still can be found in marshy areas, such as around lily pads and cattails, especially those adjacent to drop-offs. However, the majority of the bass will relate to the shallow side of weeds growing nearest the drop- off as temperatures fall. “The most aggressive bites occur during the middle of the day on sunny days, or during the low-pressure systems that occur just as a front is approaching,” explains VanDam. “Believe it or not, that’s when you can experience some incredible buzzbait and spinnerbait fishing over those weeds.”

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