As the grass dies off in many lakes and rivers with the onset of fall and winter, big bass generally go on a feeding spree. Phillip Criss of Scottsboro, Alabama has been bass fishing for 50 years and guiding anglers for 30 years. He currently guides on Lake Guntersville in north Alabama, considered one of the top three big bass lakes in America.
“Right now on Guntersville Lake, the bass and the bream are feeding under the milfoil,” Criss explained. “We find these fish feeding by pulling into grassy areas and listening for bluegills snacking on top of the water. In some areas, the bream will sound like a popcorn machine once the kernels of popcorn start exploding.
“After the milfoil dies out, next the hydrilla will begin to die, and the bass will move to the hydrilla grass mats. At Lake Guntersville, we fish the milfoil throughout the entire month of October with top-water lures. From the end of October until two to three weeks into November, we’ll fish the hydrilla grass mats.”
On other grass lakes, the timetable of the grass dying off may be slightly different. However, Criss has found that using top-water baits then will create a bass bonanza.
Rubber frogs and rubber rats
“I like hollow-bodied rubber frogs and hollow-bodied rubber rats,” Criss said. “My favorite is the Pro-Z Frog, because it has a soft body, and I seem to get better hook-ups with it. Early in the morning I’ll fish the black frog, and then as the sun comes up, I’ll change to a white frog. As I’m fishing down the grass mats, I’m looking for holes in the grass where the water’s exposed. When my frog gets close to those holes, I’ll often see the grass behind the frog hump up to indicate that a big bass is on the way. Once the frog reaches the open water of the hole, you better have a tight grip on your rod and be ready for a bass explosion.”
Buzzbaits, Zara Spook, and Pop-R
Criss reported that another of his favorite lures to fish in the fall grass is the buzzbait. Early in the morning and on overcast days, Criss fishes the black buzzbait, and as the sun comes up, he changes to a red buzzbait. Although most anglers will fish a white or a white-and-chartreuse buzzbait once the sun rises, Criss observed that “My clients and I catch more bass all year using a red buzzbait, something the bass rarely see. The buzzbait is also effective when fishing down the edges of matted grass or cast in the pockets of matted grass.”
Criss recommends two other lures he says you can’t overlook for this type of fishing—the Zara Spook and the Rebel Pop-R. “The Zara Spook is a big walking bait that darts from side to side, and the Pop-R is a chugger type lure. Both are deadly on scattered grass and fishing down the edges of the grass.”
“In the late fall, schools of big bass will chase shad to the surface and feed on them,” Criss explained. “If the schools are away from the boat, I’ll cast the Zara Spook, since it’s a big lure I can cast a long way. But if the shad start breaking the surface close to the boat, I may cast the Pop-R.”
Backup baits: Rat-L-Trap, flukes, finesse worms, and trick worms
When the schools of bass quit feeding on the surface, Criss will cast a Rat-L-Trap, which is a lipless crankbait, or a twitchbait like a fluke or a finesse worm to where he’s last seen the bass breaking the surface. Criss also likes a trick worm in either white or merthiolate to cast to bass that blow up on one of his top-water lures but that don’t get the lure in their mouths.
“The fluke is a soft-plastic lure that’s productive to throw to the bass that miss any of my top-water baits,” Criss emphasized.
Criss said that he uses these same tactics on warming days in the early spring when the grass just has started to appear under the surface of the water or around boat houses and wood in the water.
For hot bass fishing action as the weather cools down, and the grass dies off, try these top-water tactics that consistently produce big bass in the fall.
You can contact Phillip Criss at 205-461-5549. To see daily catches that Phillip Criss and others have caught, go to www.midsouthbassguide.com.
For more tips and information on catching bass, check out John E. Phillips’ print and Kindle books.
Images by John Phillips