Finely tuned finesse presentations have their place, but come fall bass anglers can toss it all out the window. This is the time for a now-or-never tactic called “burning.”
The execution is pretty simple: Cast…reel like you’re trying to start a fire…repeat.
Here’s why it works.
1. It’s chow time. As shad and other forage fish migrate to the creeks and coves, bass follow in full-on predator mood.
“The bass are all about eating and getting ready for winter,” says Bassmaster Elite Series pro Jason Christie. “Their strike zone is wide, and you can cover a lot of water by burning baits.”
“I think with the water changing from warm to cool, the bass’ metabolism is up and they’re ready to chase baitfish,” adds California pro Chris Zaldain. “They’re also grouped up and competing with each other at this time.”
2. Bass are on the move. As Christie notes, in fall, bass leave the deeper structure and vegetation they hugged throughout summer and lurk in the open water of creek arms, where they’re looking up for their next meal.
“This gives you a lot of opportunity to burn a bait by them,” he says.
3. Commotion means food. Fall usually brings clearer water, so bass get a good gander at plodding presentations. Baits that zip across their radar typically trip a bass’ predatory instincts.
“What you’re doing is triggering them to react,” says bass pro Shaw Grigsby. “They think it’s something trying to get away from them.”
“A lot of times when bait is abundant, bass are just gorging themselves making it hard to get them to respond to artificials,” says Texas guide Stephen Johnston. “Burning a lure through cover will make those baitfish jump and scatter. When those shad react, the bass will react. You can actually put them into a feeding frenzy if you’ve got the correct lure.”
BEST OF THE BURNERS
Christie likes a ½- to ¾-ounce Booyah Spinnerbait with double willow leaf blades and a white or chartreuse skirt. (White or chartreuse blades are good for smallmouths.) Bending the wire into a compact, aquadynamic form helps keep the bait about 3 inches below the surface, while the heavier models prevent the surface rising blowouts common to smaller spinnerbaits.
Zaldain throws a Megabass Vibration-X Ultra in Sexy French Pearl. The bait’s nose-down shimmy and noisy rattles stimulate bass, but Zaldain works in the occasional pause.
Johnston burns a Talon deer-hair jig, which needs no trailer—thanks to the length difference of its two-layered skirt. A ½- to ⁵⁄₈-ounce jig works best in depths of 1 to 15 feet. In deeper spots, a ¾-ounce jig affords a vertical burning look for fish holding lower in the water column. A cadence of burn, burn, burn, pause makes the hair skirt compress and flare with lifelike pulsation.
A good bet for winding over anything you might bump, these shallow running baits will deflect off wood, rocks, or even grass, so you don’t lose the fast-paced momentum. Favoring a Strike King KVD 1.5, Grigsby targets weed lines and flat rocky points. With the latter, he’ll cast shallow and burn the bait off the edge.