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Keep an Open Mind for Early Fall Bass

Fall has started to show itself in the Mid-Atlantic region. The calendar turning to September brought with it cooler morning temperatures and the sun setting earlier. These events started to get me thinking of bass feeding shallow with reckless abandon. I could picture all of the big bass that would readily eat any Z-Man offerings I would present to them. Unfortunately my first outing in September brought me back to reality very quickly. The bass were not feeding recklessly shallow or deep or anywhere in-between.

The fish quickly reminded me that the beginning of fall can be a very challenging time to catch bass. The bass are no longer locked on the deep structure all day, the schooling activity can be hit or miss, and the shallow fish are constantly on the move. The challenge now is what to fish. Do I fish deep, mid-depths, or shallow and hope to scratch out a few fish? My answer is I fish it all. This is the time of year I have multiple presentations out on the deck and ready to go at a moment's notice.

My approach to the fall bass transition is to keep an open mind and have my arsenal of Z-Man gear rigged and ready to cover the water column from top to bottom. I will have a Pop ShadZ or Hard Leg FrogZ rigged and ready to cover any shallow cover that may offer some top water action. Any standing or emergent vegetation, flooded bushes, or riprap banks are good targets to ply with top water presentations. If the fish don't want to eat on top, I move lower in the water column and present the Project Z Weedless ChatterBait rigged with a MinnowZ or DieZel MinnowZ trailer around any cover I encounter. I can fish the Project Z Weedless ChatterBait in vegetation, flooded brush, laydown trees, under docks, and around any rock I come across. I will also have the Project Z Swim Jig, rigged with the one of the previously mentioned trailers, at the ready in case the fish are not fully committing to the ChatterBait. If the fish are not willing to chase a reaction bait, I slow down and fish this same types of cover by pitching a Boar HogZ or a Palmetto BugZ into and around the cover. If the fish are not cooperating in the shallows I will progressively work deeper.

Once moving to the mid depths, I will start to search for bass by fishing the MinnowZ or DieZel MinnowZ as a swimbait. If heavy cover is present, the weighted ChinlockZ hook will allow the bait to be fished effectively through the cover. In open water situations I will present the baits with the Trout Eye jighead. Again, if the fish are not willing to chase, it is time to slow down. For the mid depth areas I will slow down and saturate any available structure or cover with a Finesse TRD rigged on a Weedless Finesse ShroomZ head. If I want to bulk up the presentation a little bit, I will go to the ShroomZ Micro Finesse jig with a TRD HogZ. This is quickly becoming a favorite of mine to get finicky fish to bite. If they're not hitting the mid depths it is time to move deeper.

When I move to the deeper parts of where I am fishing I tend to slow down all of my presentations. If covering large areas of bottom structure, looking for fish, I will use the Project Z Football Jig with a matching Turbo CrawZ tailer to locate the fish. Once I have pinpointed the fish or a specific piece of cover on the structure, I will get more precise with my presentation. This is when I will move to a drop shot presentation. I will work though a rotation of baits to see what the fish want. I like to start with the Scented Jerk ShadZ and then downsize from there based on how the fish respond. I may go smaller in profile to the StreakZ 3.75, or go to a Finesse WormZ. Lately I find myself throwing the new Trick ShotZ baits more and more. The Trick ShotZ has become one of my new go to drop shot baits.

At the conclusion of a typical early fall outing, I have fished every lure I had rigged up, have fished from top to bottom of the lake and caught fish at all depths. No one depth was better than the other which is why I try to keep an open mind and fish it all. Early fall fishing can be challenging and seem like you have to fish the whole lake to catch a few fish. However, fish can be caught and the good news is that Z-Man has baits that will allow you to catch fish from the top to bottom of the lake.

Jeff Lugar

Z-Man pro

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