September – A Month of Change
By: Frank Jones
September is not a good month for me as it is a month of change. For us summertime lovers of the lazy days of summer we start the month in tee shirts and flip-flops and it can end with long pants and short sleeves on a cool morning. The one thing that it does make happy is the fisherman in me as it’s also a time of change for my favorite small water hangouts. Through summer, because of the southern heat, I only rarely fish, and it is usually at dusk or during the less-hot morning hours. In September however that all changes. This month marks the end of my summer fishing habits and the beginning of the fall season. Cooler temperatures start arriving and this means the fish will start becoming more aggressive. This means that the lures I was using in the first of September are completely different than the ones I will use at the end of the month. The same small water hang out that was a steamy mosquito factory in the summer will quickly change into a fish hole loaded with catchable trophy-sized panfish and largemouth bass.
With the changes that occurs this month, I approach fishing small waters differently than I did summer months. During the summer and into the first part of September I like to use slower moving soft baits, but as the month moves on the and the fish become more active I’ll start to change over to topwater baits and fast moving lures. As with any season, an angler has to eliminate unproductive areas…which is easier to do in small waters than large reservoirs.
This is done much more effectively with these faster moving baits. When out on my Twin Troller I will make several trips around the same body of water that just a few weeks earlier I would take several hours to cover. The most productive areas will typically have some type of structure or cover that fish relate to for protection and ambushing prey.
Smaller bodies of water can offer multiple species of fish in a compact area and I usually caring the ultralight tackle with me just to add some more fun factor to each trip. It has happened more than a couple of times that a planned catch and release Bass fishing trip as turned into a panfish fish fry trip.
One of the most popular fish to catch in small waters are bluegills. They are always a lot of fun when enticed on ultralight gear. You can catch bluegill on live bait or artificial lures. But, during fall months they are so aggressive it seems foolish to fish with anything except small artificial lures; you don’t have to worry about keeping anything alive. Plus, most artificial lures can imitate most any bluegill prey available during the fall time period. Throw in the fact you don’t have to search hard when trying to find bluegills and they make an ideal target for fast-paced action. Some of the best places to find big ‘gills on small waters are boat docks and laydowns. Not only do they offer a place for shelter from predators, it also harbors forage, including aquatic and terrestrial insects. Send some time fishing these areas and you are likely to fill the cooler.
Crappie are my favorite panfish to catch during the fall, both for the sport but more for the how great they are in the fry pan. The use of ultralight gear around brush can bring a monster to the boat. Many anglers prefer live bait, but for me I enjoy fooling them with small minnow imitating artificial lures cast in and around hard cover. In general I’ll catch crappie suspended off the bottom with a small slow sinking jerk bait. I’ll use a stop-and-go technique but this time of the year it will be more go then stop.
Although bluegill and crappie are fun to catch in the fall, largemouth bass are my favorite prey when I’m fishing my local small water spots. Throughout the month of September these fish get more and more aggressive as the water temperature cools. In addition, even in smaller bodies of water, the bass will often start to school towards the end of the month. If you can find them ganging up on schools of baitfish they can easily be caught on topwater lures, bladed jigs, spinner baits, or crankbaits. When they get in an eating mode you can just about throw anything that swims at them and have a great time. Most anglers can usually catch bass all day long by using the same lure around similar cover or structure in different areas of your body of water.
As us small water anglers know, fishing these waters during any time of the year can be exceptionally rewarding. Compared to large, public lakes, smaller waters have less pressure from other anglers and the reward of fishing them can be increased by fishing the right lure at the right time of of the year. Going through this month of change, anglers need to be aware of cold fronts moving through and where the cover or structure is located. Generally we need to start the month fishing slow and change over to fast moving lures as the month progresses. My rule of thumb is that as the mornings grow cooler, and the mist on the water gets a little thicker, the faster I fish.
By: Bob Lusk
By: Mike Pehanich