Top 10 Fall Fishing Tactics

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Fall fishing is one of our favourite seasons to take on. No more sweltering hot days, the fish become seemingly more active, their colours never look better, and they are at one of the healthiest times of the year for catch and release.

One of the biggest keys to our fall fishing patterns is taking full advantage of our Garmin electronics. Charts with 1-foot contours are such a bonus when looking for transitions. Running our side imaging screens looking for deep rocks is essential. Splitting our traditional screen with our down viewing screen helps discern fish from “whatever the heck that is” and, of course, our Panoptix and LiveScope modes for the ultimate in live viewing. Oh, and knowing the water temperatures is always a psychological advantage.

Here are some tactics that we use and highly recommend to you

Smallmouth Bass:

Angelo with a fall smallmouth bass
Here’s Ang with a beautiful November, shallow water Smallmouth Bass

Fall Fishing Tactic #1: Deep Smallmouth Bass

Fall is a time when a lot of the Smallmouth in lakes and rivers “go deep”. Yes, indeed, there are shallow fish to catch, however, that 25-foot and beyond range is starting to load up (look for hooks close to the bottom on your traditional screen).

If you are fishing the bottom (non suspended fish) for Smallies in the fall, then the good ol’ tube jig is still a great choice. Look for 3 – 3 ½ inch models in muted colours like pumpkin green, watermelon, etc. These are kind of a “go-to” in the world of Smallie colours. 

Stuff a ½ ounce tube jig head in your tube and you’re good to go. However, if you have some kind of scent, pour or dab that in first. It not only helps for smell, but it helps put the jighead into the body.

A school of perch shown on a Garmin fishfinder
The motherload of Perch. Guaranteed there’s a deep Smallie or two not too far off in the distance.

Fall Fishing Tactic #2: Weedbed Smallies

As stated above, not all Smallies are deep. In fact, we have caught Smallmouth up in the shallows well into the harsh Canadian Novembers!

One of Angelo Viola’s favourite ways to catch late-season Smallmouth is to look for weed clumps with lots of “holes” or openings in the weeds. This is where a pair of quality polarized sunglasses work well. Sometimes a spinnerbait or a jerkbait will pull active fish out, however, Ang’s “be all end all” dropshot rig works really well.

Look for big flats close to 30+ feet of water on your chart and go from there.

Largemouth Bass

How’s this for an October Largemouth that Pete caught on a spinnerbait?

Fall Fishing Tactic #3: Cranking Fall Largies

Pete Bowman is a crankbait nut when it comes to the fall (see this past article). He feels that not enough Canadians use cranks for fall Largemouth… and he’s ok with that. “They don’t know what they’re missing!”

Throwing squarebill crankbaits around weeds is his absolute favourite tactic. As stated above, look for big flat areas on your chart but don’t be so concerned about having “Smallmouth-like” deep water around. 15 feet is plenty for a Largemouth to be satisfied with. And by the way, if the crankbait is not working or is picking up too many weeds, try a Colorado bladed spinnerbait… (see pic above) just sayin’!

Fall Fishing Tactic #4: Finessing Fall Largies

Finesse Jigs are another great fall Largemouth Bass bait. Especially when the above crankbaits aren’t on fire. Essentially it is just a down-sized version of a flipping jig but usually with a round or football-shaped head. Add on a downsized trailer and let the fun begin. Slow and steady is the pace here. Hit weeds, rocks, wood, and even flat areas. Check it out in action here.

Chinook Salmon

Here’s one from the past, Pete holding a dark Chinook he caught casting a chartreuse, floating minnow bait.

Fall Fishing Tactic #5: Cranking Fall Chinooks

Cranking and trolling vibrant-coloured minnow and crankbaits is the ticket here. Spoons and spinners work as well but, for some reason, brightly coloured body baits smash fall Chinooks. 

Either casting from piers or trolling and/or casting from a boat near river mouths are great ways of intercepting these behemoths! LiveScope is such a treat to use here. Watching these big boys and girls swim about is entertainment in itself!

By the way, you may want to upgrade your hooks to something much stronger, these fish are insane!

Northern Pike:

Ang holding a fall caught northern pike
Colder water means a chance at a thick Northern Pike like this one that Ang is holding.

Fall Fishing Tactic #6: Trolling for Pike

Fall is a time when we love trolling for Pike. We feel it is that slow and steady bait movement that entices the fish to bite. Earlier in the year, it is often that crazy erratic movement that triggers fish. In the fall, however, their window becomes much different.

Following various contours at depths from 10-25 feet deep is a good starting point. Use your chart screen for this. By the way, you can still be close to shore as fast-breaking drop-offs are excellent.

We love trolling perch patterned crankbaits. There’s something about that perch pattern that everything and everybody loves to put on the dinner plate… fish and humans! In fact, on a past fall shoot in the Georgian Bay area, a perch crank worked on a monster Pike and a bonus big Muskie!

Another great bait is a 3-4 inch spoon. Vary your colours, but the standard red and white or a 5 of Diamonds is still killer to this day. Make sure your boat speed is fast enough to keep your spoon from dragging and snagging on the bottom.

Walleye:

Ang believes the trusty ol’ Jig & Minnow is the be-all-end-all when it comes to cold water Walleye.

Fall Fishing Tactic #7: Live-Bait Jigging for Walleye

There is nothing like the “tap” of a big Walleye sucking in a jig and minnow combination. When they turn on, it’s like someone flicked the end of your rod with their fingertip.

Dragging a jig and minnow is one of Pete Bowman’s oldest Bay of Quinte tactics. He looks for breaklines in 12-20 feet of water and then scours the area with his traditional screen for odd-looking “bumps” on the bottom. Oftentimes these are big Walleye that are locked to the lake floor. Holding that jig and minnow in that big Walleye’s face can drive them crazy!

When your traditional screen looks like this one did in this past October, you best drop something down there!

Fall Fishing Tactic #8: Trolling for Open Water Walleye

Trolling open water has become the norm for Canadian fall Walleye fishing. In areas where it’s popular, you can often see 20+ boats in the same vicinity. Some are trolling directly behind the boat, some are using planer boards, while others are downrigging. All of which will work.

The key to this fishing is to try and find deep water. Walleye so often suspend, especially when there are ciscoe, shad, smelt, alewife etc. in the water. The thought is that these fish are migrating from summer areas towards their spring spawning areas and are eating along the way. 

Troll long Walleye-style deep-diving minnow baits and you should eventually contact fish.

Again, that traditional fishfinder screen will tell you tons. Look for the classic “hooks” and try to pull your baits either at the same depth or slightly above the fish. 

Muskie:

This Muskie is considered small in the scheme of fall fishing, however, eventually you will hit gold.

09 – Casting BIG Plastics

Casting big plastics is a favourite of Muskie seekers. We feel it is the pause and go of these baits that push those feeding missiles over the edge and into striking.

One of Angelo Viola’s favourite baits is a Delong Giant Witch (mentioned in this Muskie article)… it’s almost in the ridiculous category… but it works!

Although burning big blades will still work, you need to remember that these fish’s bodies are now running into the 40+ degree mark. They certainly can be active, however, energy conservation is now a consideration.

10 – Trolling for Trophy Muskie

Trolling for studs! Simply put, trolling big crankbaits has, and will continue to, put more gigantic late-season Muskie in the boat than pretty much any other tactic. This is definitely not a numbers game. Essentially, you are looking for one big fish a day (any more is a bonus). It is hard-core fishing at its best!

When you find a good trolling pass with big fish on it, make sure you either save your track or at least pop in a series of waypoints as this spot will be productive for a long, long time!

Conclusion

The above is a smidgen of fall fishing patterns that will hopefully help you out not only right now, but in the following autumns to come. All are tried, true and, proven to work. Get out there, it’s an amazing season to enjoy the great sport of fishing.

Fish'n Canada

The Fish’n Canada Show first aired in 1986 with phenomenal success. In 1988 the program went coast to coast on CBC, the first North American weekly fishing show to broadcast on a national network. In 1992 the show went into syndication adding Global Television Network, prominent CTV and affiliates, and several cable networks. The move resulted in unprecedented fishing audiences. With the addition of WFN U.S. and The Sportsman Chanel Canada today the Fish’n Canada show dominates the airwaves with a national weekly reach of 3.5 million and ama of over 450,000 easily making it one of the most-watched “outdoors” programs in North America.

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