Expert tabs eight go-to baits for fall bass fishing
HAMBURG — Outrageous. Bombastic. Competitive.
Those adjectives — and many more — can and are used to describe professional bass angler and television personality Mike “Ike” Iaconelli. When he appeared at Cabela’s Hamburg to present a series of seminars on bass fishing, however, he displayed another side of his personality.
Iaconelli was cooperative, patient and outgoing when bass anglers of all skill levels approached him with their questions. Of the questions he fielded, the suggestions he provided that are most useful as October reaches its final days and November looms dealt with bait selection for fall bass.
All the baits Iaconelli recommended are successful under the right conditions, and the proof could be seen on the TV screen showing him in action. Best of all, for those who waited for the crowd to clear out he took the time to show how to work the baits.
“Before we talk specifics, though, let’s review two factors that matter when the leaves start to turn,” Iaconelli said. “The first one is that the fish are moving shallow. They do this because they are following the baitfish. Depending upon where you live this has already started or it will start pretty soon.
“The second factor is the importance of matching the hatch. There are two aspects to this — size and color. Of the two, I’d say size is maybe a little more important, but not by much. They both matter.”
To get started, Iaconelli recommended four traditional baits he uses for fall bass:
¯ Spinnerbait: “This is the one lure that everybody has in their tackle box. Mix colors and blade size until you find what they think looks like the real thing,” he said. “There’s no one way, or best way, to fish a fall spinnerbait. Fish it slow, fish it fast and fish it somewhere in between. I usually start with a willowleaf model in chartreuse and white. I change things around if I don’t get the bites I think I should.”
¯ Crankbait: “This is a great fall bait. You can get them in almost any size, color and running depth,” he said. “Remember something about matching the hatch here, though. A lot of the baitfish are young-of-the-year models. They aren’t very big and very few of them have a potbelly. Keep that in mind when you pick a crankbait to throw.”
¯ Topwater: “Other than in the summer, the fall is probably the best time of the year to throw a topwater plug. Nearly any design or style will work at one time or another. Poppers, walking sticks, buzzbaits and propbaits are all good. Switch around until you find something they like. Make sure you match the size of your lure to the size of the baitfish. Size really matters when you’re fishing on top,” he said.
¯ Jerkbait: “This might be the best traditional fall bait of them all,” he said. “I know some guys put them away once the water starts to cool because they say they don’t catch very many bass on them. That’s a mistake. Pick one with the right action and you’ll see what I mean.
“‘The right action’ is defined as a lot of movement. I’m a Rapala man, as you know. I love the Husky Jerk when the water is 50 degrees or below, but when it’s in the 60-degree range or above the X-Rap is a much better bait. It has more movement. That’s what you want right now.”
Then, befitting his personality, Iaconelli went outside the box and suggested anglers try four non-traditional baits for fall bass:
¯ In-line spinner: Of these, he said, “A lot of guys think they aren’t bass baits. That’s a big, big mistake. I’ve caught a ton of bass on them. The first advantage to an in-line spinner is that it’s easy to match the hatch with them. They come in all sorts of sizes and with all sorts of blade designs. Rooster Tails and Shysters have long thin blades. The stuff from Mepp’s has a wider blade. The Panther Martin designs have unique blade shapes and a unique spin. The available colors are limitless, and, if you can’t find exactly what you want, it only takes a minute or two to repaint them with nail polish or model paint. They’ll dry in the boat while you rig your rod. The final thing I want to mention is cost. These lures are really inexpensive. That’s a real plus.”
¯ Soft Plastic Jerkbait: Iaconelli said, “I use these minnow imitators when I want to shock the fish into biting something. My preference is The Jerk. It’s in the Havoc line made by Berkley. It’s fairly versatile and it’s available in my favorite shock color — Pinky. The trick here is not to use it very often. It’s at its best when the fish see it, don’t know what to think, and react out of their predator instinct.”
Bladed Jig: “This is one that I think too many guys overlook when they put their fall baits together,” he said. “You can fish these baits sort of like a jig with a lift-and-drop presentation. I call it feathering. These baits are not spinnerbaits and they aren’t jigs. They are a combination of the two. Bladed jigs are serious fish catchers, but only if you fish them correctly. My preference is the Molix Lover. I choose my lure color based on what the local forage looks like. I don’t leave the dock in the fall without one of these baits tied on.”
¯ Lipless Crankbaits: “A lot of anglers like to throw red lipless crankbaits early in the year, but then they put them away. Big mistake! These critters will make bass strike at any time of the year,” he said. “I always carry a box of them in my boat. They have the advantage of being offered in many sizes and weights as well as a billion colors and finishes. If you can’t find something that looks like the local baitfish in your lake or river it’s your fault. There’s no other way to put it. I fish with the Rapala models.”
Iaconelli stopped short of guaranteeing anglers will catch fall bass on all eight baits he suggested, but they will certainly catch bass on some of them. Anyone who spends any amount of time bass fishing probably has all of the traditional baits he suggested, but adding some of the non-traditional baits to the tackle bag is a good idea.
Betty Dietz is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.