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Autumn Bass Fishing

Hook some whoppers at the surface – a fantastic autumn angling fight you don’t want to miss!

By John Neporadny, Jr.
Photo by John Neporadny, Jr.
Any time I catch a bass is exciting, but to me there is no greater thrill than to watch my topwater lure skitter or sashay across the surface and the water suddenly explode as a bass engulfs the bait.
Bass can be taken on a variety of baits that run at various depth ranges throughout the year. However, when the surface water starts cooling down in the fall, bass love to hang out in the shallows or suspend near the top of the water column over deeper water where the fish become susceptible to topwater offerings.
So when the leaves start to turn colors in autumn, bass feast on baitfish, frogs, grasshoppers or any other creature that happens to swim near or skim on the water’s surface. Since bass are such opportunistic feeders, I load my tackle bag full of topwater plugs and other assorted surface lures that imitate the various prey these predators will attack on top of the water.
My first choice for getting in on some bass surface action is a buzz bait. I have never been able to figure out what this lure is supposed to imitate, but the commotion the blade creates as it buzzes across the surface just drives bass nuts. A buzz bait is also my most frustrating topwater lure because of all the times the fish hit and miss the lure, so I recommend adding a trailer hook to the main hook.
Buzz baits work best for me in stained to murky water on cloudy days with a slight breeze that ripples the surface. If the weather is cloudy and calm or if bass continue to miss the buzz bait (even with the trailer hook attached), I will switch to a plastic frog. The twisting legs of the plastic frog produce a subtle gurgling as the lure runs across the surface – and the frog lure sometimes creates more solid hookups from bass that tend to shy away from the louder buzz bait.
On cloudy or partly cloudy days in clear-water situations, I favor a Heddon Zara Spook for my topwater offerings. The zigzag action of this topwater plug looks just like a crippled baitfish struggling on the surface – an easy meal irresistible to any bass.
Photo by John Neporadny, Jr.
Windy days can also generate some exciting topwater action if you choose the right lure. When the waves are rocking and rolling, I prefer throwing a topwater chugger or popper since you need a lure with a lot of pop to draw the attention of a bass in all that surface commotion. The competition factor plays a key role here. When a bass recognizes the chugging and spitting of the lure, the fish senses another predator is attacking its prey. So the bass charges after the plug before the competition gets to it.
Topwater options are slim for clear water on those bright, blue sky days with a slick water surface. That is when you need to throw a surface lure early or late in the day and spend the afternoon fishing a bottom-bouncing lure – or taking a nap in the hammock.

While others hunt in the fall, John Neporadny, Jr. prefers spending his time on the water tempting bass with his topwater offerings.
THE TOP FOUR – The author’s favorite four topwater lures for fall bass fishing are a buzz bait, a Zara Spook, a Rebel Pop-R and a plastic frog.
Photo by John Neporadny, Jr.
WATCH FOR WHITE CAPS – A topwater popper or chugger works best for fall bass when the wind creates a lot of wave action.
Photo by John Neporadny, Jr.

Topwater lures have frequently produced quality bass for me in the fall. I have taken plenty of 5-pound largemouth on Zara Spooks and buzz baits in the spring and fall, but if you are looking for a record-breaking fish, I recommend trying something else.
Here’s a look at how the world-record largemouth and smallmouth were taken.
22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth caught by George Perry on a Creek Chub Fintail Shiner, June 2, 1932, at Montgomery Lake in Georgia.

11-pound, 15-ounce smallmouth caught by David Hayes on a Model 300 Bomber crankbait, July 8, 1955, at Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee.
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