The first few weeks of September can be real confusing depending upon the weather! Daylight hours become shorter, as evenings begin to get cooler and water temperatures start to decline. The circle of life within the underwater world of the Black Bass slowly begins to turnover heading into the Fall Transition. Summertime deep water bass begin to move shallow, rocky hard bottom areas hold heat longer attracting baitfish and predator species alike.
As the Fall Transition progresses everyday will be slightly different. Water temperatures will vary throughout different areas and shallow vegetation will begin to show signs of decaying. Negative changes in water clarity signal the beginning of turnover. This occurs when deeper water temperatures are warmer than the water column above. Thus, the warmer water on the bottom raises to the surface…Turnover.
However, the good news for bass anglers during the start of the Fall Transition is bass can be caught just about everywhere and on just about every technique. Shallow vegetation is still green and healthy sheltering the springtime spawn for a multiple of species; crawfish, lizards and frogs continue to be on the Black Bass forage menu. While, pelagic baitfish such as alewives, herring, smelt and shad start to merge into larger schools traveling along steeper contour lines close to shallow water… soon to be the main menu for the Black Bass.
Where to Start:
Concentrate your efforts within shallow areas. I prefer to start with vegetation consisting of matted grass, lily pads, and isolated pockets that are loaded with a wide variety of both emergent and non-emergent vegetation. These areas often hold some trophy size largemouth bass.
Take note of baitfish activity within these shallow flats, as well as bass movement and sudden surface feeding action. If there is zero activity then it’s time to move to another area with similar vegetation. Equipping yourself with excellent polarized glasses is a must have situation to stay in contact with underwater activity! My choice is WileyX Climate Control Series.
Adding BioEdge Frog Attractant will increase your bites, plus allow your ZMan Hard Leg FrogZ to slide smoothly over cover!
Baits for Shallow Vegetation:
- Z-Man 4″ Hard Leg FrogZ: Always use a weighted EWG hook. The weight increases your casting distance, as well as assisting the Hard Leg FrogZ to run perfectly upright every cast. My choice of hook is Z-Man’s EZ KeeperZ 4/0-5/0, 1/16, 1/8 oz. The rubber ‘O’ Ring keeps your FrogZ pegged and weedless!
- New Z-Man 2.75″ Finesse FrogZ: When bass stop eating the larger 4″ FrogZ or they just seem to blow-up and not get hooked, this is the time to feed them the Finesse 2.75″ FrogZ! My choice of hook is a 2/0 Mustad Grip-Pin EWG.
- Z-Man 4″ Pop FrogZ: The Pop FrogZ is extremely versatile and one of my favorite all around surface baits for docks, open water, as well as within shallow vegetation. The mouth creates a popping noise splashing the surface, while the swimming curly-paddle tail legs mimic a natural fleeing action enticing explosive reaction bites. My choice of hook is a 4/0-5/0 Mustad Grip-Pin. The Grip-Pin eliminates the bait from riding up the line, solidly keeping it in place when imparting loud popping retrieves!
- Z-Man 5″ Grass KickerZ: Impelled with either a weighted or non-weighted 4/0 Mustad Grip-Pin Hook, the Grass KickerZ’s slender body equipped with its large paddle tail comes through vegetation and glides across matted vegetation creating surface commotion of fleeing baitfish. Remember to keep your rod pointed at the bait, and keep the Grass KickerZ moving. This is totally a reaction bite response, allowing you to cover water fast, and many times scattering baitfish telegraphing high percentage areas.
I try to match my color choices to the natural forage base, keeping it simple as more often than not you will be enticing reaction bites; Breaking Bream, The Deal, Pearl for baitfish imitations, and White, Mud Minnow, Watermelon for frog imitators.
Equipment for Shallow Vegetation:
- Seaguar 50-65 lb. Smackdown Braided Line………All FrogZ baits
- Seaguar 30-40 lb. Smackdown Braided Line………Grass KickerZ
- St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass Rods Slop-N-Frog 7’4″ H-Rod/FrogZ
- St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass Rods Swim Jig 7’1″ MH-Rod/Grass KickerZ
- Daiwa Tatula SV TWS 7.3:1 fast retrieve (I use both left and right hand retrieves)
- Mustad Grip Pin Hooks
- BioEdge Frog, Sunfish, Shiner Attractant (Potion & Wand)
- WileyX Polarized Glasses
No longer green and healthy the shallow vegetation starts turning brown, and the grass bite diminishes. Bass will now migrate towards wood and rock cover close to deep water tapering points, pockets and contours along creek channels all providing ambush areas to target schools of baitfish. This is the time to play the percentage game! While bass can certainly be caught on jigs, creature baits, as well as drop-shot rigs, the main forage will turn to baitfish!
Tracking and following schools of baitfish requires anglers to cover a lot of water monitoring their sonar units constantly. Watching for birds circling and/or feeding on the surface are signals of baitfish being pushed to the surface. Having several rods rigged and ready for these un-expectant feeding frenzy’s increases your percentage!
Note: Do not overlook the outside weedlines that drop off into deeper water. These areas will still harvest green vegetation. Add in both wood and rock to this vegetation and you have indeed found an outstanding productive honey-hole!
High Percentage Baits:
- Z-Man SwimmerZ: The SwimmerZ is a bit bulkier than other Z-Man swimbaits, plus the larger paddle tail adds both action and vibration allowing bass to hone in on its location. Rigging two rods one with the 4″ and one with the 6″ SwimmerZ allows quick change-ups offering bass both size and color changes. I like to rig a 4″ Shiner color SwimmerZ on a red 3/16 oz. Redfish Eye jighead and a 6″ Smoky Shad SwimmerZ on a 3/8 oz. white/red eye Z-Man JigheadZ. Both baits cover water quickly while the 30-degree angled line tie aids in ripping out of deeper weedbeds or swimming through downed trees.
- Z-Man DieZel Spin: Do-Not under estimate the versatility of the DieZel Spin for bass…Especially during the Fall Transition! The DieZel Spin is heavy-duty high quality bait requiring bait-casting equipment and at least 15-17 lb. fluorocarbon line or braided line. With the ability for making long cast to surface busting baitfish, an oversize Colorado blade on the DieZel Spin can be gurgled on the surface or allowed to fall vertically as the blade spins imitating wounded baitfish. Swimming the DieZel Spin through a school of baitfish can often start a feeding frenzy. As the vibration and flash of the large Colorado blade often will cause the baitfish ball to breakup and scatter. Available with either a gold or black blade, the 4″ ElaZtech DieZel MinnowZ can easily be changed to match the hatch. I like to burn the DieZel Spin over shallow submerged vegetation along a deep contour line stopping it dead allowing for a vertical fall along the outside deeper weedline. More often than not the bite will occur on the fall…pay close attention to your line as it helicopters vertical to the bottom. Extremely weedless the DieZel Spin is outstanding for working down timber, docks and pitching to rocky wind blown shorelines. My DieZel MinnowZ color choices are; Bad Shad, Pearl, Smokey Shad. At times I will also utilize the 4″ SwimmerZ.
- Z-Man ProjectZ Swim Jig: The ProjectZ Swim Jig produces all year long. However, come the Fall Transition when bass are keying in on baitfish, the swim jig becomes extremely high percentage bait. With the ability to retrieve the ProjectZ Swim Jig throughout the entire water column, pairing it as a one-two combination with the DieZel Spin can produce outstanding results. During the first few weeks of the Fall Transition bass will be scatter holding on a variety of cover including, vegetation, downed timber, rocks and docks or pilings. I like to skip the ProjectZ Swim Bait under docks retrieving in a zigzag pattern hitting then pausing every vertical post including cross members. The 1/4 oz. size paired with the 3″ MinnowZ, 4″ DieZel MinnowZ or the new 3″ Slim SwimZ skips smoothly, yet still casts a good distance. When your sonar indicates bass are holding on the bottom the 3/8 oz. ProjectZ Swimbait is my choice. At times I will rig two rods with the 3/8 oz. model; one rod will have a Citrus Shad, Threadfin Shad or Breaking Bream color with a matching Z-Man swimbait trailer. The second rod will be equipped 3/8 oz. Black/Blue or Baby Bass color with a matching Z-Man Turbo CrawZ. These color combinations enticed bites when stroked or crawled along the bottom or through rocky areas.
- Z-Man ProjectZ Chatterbait: I opt for the ProjectZ Chatterbait in both 3/4 and 1 oz. models for long cast reaching surface feeding bass as well as stroking off the bottom with hard ripping retrieves. Swimming through suspended schools of baitfish as well as those holding tight to the bottom have produced positive results when paired with Z-Man’s 5″ StreakZ and RaZor ShadZ ElaZtech trailers. My choice of line for these techniques is Seaguar 15-17 lb. ABRAZX Fluorocarbon due to its excellent abrasion resistance.
- Z-Man QuadZilla Spinnerbait: Resembling a small group of baitfish, with the added flash plus vibration of four spinning blades. Weighing only 3/4 oz. the QuadZilla Spinnerbait permits easy accurate casting, without wearing you out and requiring lobbing cast, as does traditionally heavier A-Rigs. Besides stowing easily, eliminating tangles QuadZilla baits are relatively weedless, allowing you to fish the QuadZilla Spinnerbait just about anywhere! The Chartreuse Sexy Shad color has duel color willow leafs blades, while the Blueback Herring color has white blades with black dots resembling shad. When baitfish balls are prevalent on my sonar both of these colors become my first choice. Excellent trailers include: SwimmerZ, DieZel MinnowZ, MinnowZ and the Razor ShadZ with its segmented fish shaped body and vertical forked tail. More often than not I spool Seaguar 30-40 lb. Smackdown braid.
Fall Transition QuadZilla Spinnerbait Largemouth Bass ZMan DieZel Minnow Trailer
- Z-Man QuadZilla Spinner Rig: ZMan hit a Grand Slam with the QuadZilla Rig, allowing anglers to utilize any bait of their choice! Available in four colors all with matching colored willow leaf blades. When fishing river systems especially those with smallmouth bass match your ZMan swimbaits to the size of the forage. When bass are aggressive I rig a ZMan 3.5 or 5″ GrubZ on a Z-Man Trout Eye jighead and attached it to the QuadZilla Rig. The 3D eyes on the Trout Eye jigheads attract bass like magnets. When chasing largemouth especially lunker size largemouth try rigging a Z-Man 8″ ElaZtech Mag SwimZ or Z-Man 9″ GrubZ on a Striper Eye Jighead. Stick to baitfish colors for the Mag SwimZ, however I go ‘Ole-School’ on the 9″ GrubZ and impel Motor Oil. Tossing these baits calls for heavy line and hard hook sets, I have found it best to stick with braid. The smaller diameter equals longer cast while the zero-stretch factor increases your hook-up ratio.
Fall Transition River Smallmouth … ZMan QuadZilla Rig, 4″ Blueback Herring SwimmerZ
I hope these Fall transition tips help increase your bass bites. Keep focused the water is cold wear your life jackets, and send us your pictures so we may all enjoy your Z-Man catches.
Remember ‘Just Have Fun’
Billy ‘Hawkeye’ Decoteau
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