With daylight hours growing shorter and the big waters beginning to cool, schooling shad are drawing frenzied bass and opportunities for fast action to the surface.
Finding the bass, in particular, means finding the shad or working the areas where they’re apt to be. Running in schools, smaller shad are typically found deep inside coves and pockets at this time of year, while the larger shad will be using more open stretches of water. Choosing baits colored to match water conditions and sized to mimic the shad found in a given spot is the key to setting the hook early and often. Use white or light-colored baits in natural hues in clear water. Fish darker and more boldly-colored baits as water clarities decline.
As to selection, baits such as the Rat-L-Trap, by Bill Lewis Lures, or the One-knocker by XCalibur are in their prime when used to target bass chasing shad. The time is also at hand to use the Alabama rig, an umbrella rig loaded with lures of its user’s choice. Swim baits with willow-bladed spinners, both in sizes tuned to a given location, are excellent choices.
The Alabama rig puts five baits in action at a time and is tremendously effective, but is best applied with equipment tuned just to its purpose. A stiff-action rod in the 7-foot, 2-inch range and a well-made reel turning a spool of 80-pound braid is an ideal place to start.
According to state wildlife officials, the Alabama rig is legal to use in almost all of the state’s public waters, except in places where anglers are restricted by the number of lures or hooks per pole. Because of this, the Alabama rig is not legal to use at Grenada, Arkabutla, Sardis and Enid Lakes or their spillways. It cannot be used in the Ross Barnett, Okatibbee or Bluff Lake spillways either. Otherwise, it’s legal everywhere else.
Authorities on the subject point to several criteria that combine to set the fall pattern in motion. Shad, though they’ve been swimming in schools all summer, have grown throughout the warm months.
Follow the food
The bass that feed on them now are getting more for their efforts, accordingly. Throughout the summer the shad are on the move, but cooler temperatures send them into the shallows among the grass. Cooler temperatures trigger instincts in the bass that help them feed up now to survive the winter after shad have largely died off and food becomes harder to find. The two instincts put bass and baitfish together and the result is a water-churning sight sufficient to stir any fisherman’s soul.
Bass chasing shad trap them along the edges made by the grass line and the water’s surface, where the lipless crank baits and other shad-imitating lures come into play. Alabama rigs work in any water deep enough to accommodate their needs and, when the feeding frenzy is on, topwater action can be as good as any to be found.
Lure selection for this pattern depends on what the bass are doing at the moment.