fall bass fishing
Look for fall bass in super-shallow water. David A. Brown

Here’s an insider kind of bass tip that led me to a cool fall catch that you can replicate. I was heading up to the renowned Tennessee River impoundment known as Kentucky Lake for a photo shoot and local pro Terry Bolton told me he’d been fishing the backs of pockets and catching bass “in mud.”

The fall drawdown, which reduces lake levels to winter pool, drains backwaters and leaves baitfish dimpling in skinny depths as they gobble algae from any hard structure that remains submerged. Shortening days and cooling nights press all fish to eat heartily this time of year, so Bolton advised me to look for those shallow bait schools and throw lipless crankbaits to mimic the forage.

Sure enough, on a photo session with Bassmaster pro Keith Combs, we saw a good one busting bait so shallow his back was breaking water. Combs couldn’t push any shallower, so I heaved a 1/4-ounce Strike King Redeye Shad as far as I could. The bait splashed down 10 feet from the boil, but the hungry bass immediately dashed over and gobbled my lipless crank.

A couple of takeaways here:

  • Don’t write-off the seemingly drained areas, particularly from midday until sunset when the shallow water has reached maximum warmth. As baitfish activity increases, so does bass interest.

  • Keep a selection of reaction baits handy to cover lots of water and quickly hit targets of opportunity — like feeding bass.

  • Lastly, keep your distance and stand still. Rocking boats send telltale pressure wakes toward fish that are already nervous about their vulnerable depth, so don’t give them any more cause for alarm.