With fall officially commencing this week, bass anglers are mentally shifting gears to those autumn patterns. Depending on weather patterns – basically, how soon the cool down actually occurs – the onset and progression of those patterns always seems to be an observe-and-adjust deal.

However this fall unfolds, a key point of awareness will help guide anglers to consistency. It’s all about water temperature changes, both in terms of the calendar’s marking and each day’s specifics.

To narrow this down a little, several baits and tactics will earn the fall bites, but a daily mix of reaction baits (crankbaits, spinnerbaits, topwaters) and flipping presentations usually defines fall success. How do you know when either’s best?

For Pickwick Lake guide Jimmy Mason, it’s all about determining the fish’s comfort level.

“Generally, early in the fall, the fish are a little more active in the morning, as the water is cooler during the first 2-3 hours,” Mason said. “Then they’ll pull in tight to cover along the shoreline. This is when you slow down and flip.

“But later in the fall as water temperatures cool, I’ll (invert) that and start out flipping a jig until the water warms. Then, once the fish start moving around, I’ll switch to my reaction baits.”

At least in his area, Mason looks for the 60-degree mark to prompt the bass to switch to their cooler water patterns.

Remember, severe cold snaps, as well as unseasonably warm days can fiddle with the schedule. The key, though, is recognizing the periods of lethargy and activity – and then catering to the fish’s present disposition.