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Hints of fall are in the air

It’s crazy how fast summer has blown by.

That thought hit me this week as I’m starting to see early signs of fall. The Elite series is winding down and we’ve fished through summer, yet it’s been a strange year weather-wise.

It got even stranger for me yesterday when I began seeing signs of falling leaves in marshy areas and some have started to turn already.

But a bigger clue – one that other anglers should take notice – is that the bait is starting to move even though it may feel like summer is still in full swing.

It’s been a hot week here in the North, yet the shad are starting to school on the flats and in bays. I’m seeing similar activity with bluegill moving closer to the weed lines in natural lakes. This is something you normally see when the average surface temperature drops 10 degrees, but I think the shortening length of daylight has more to do with it.

Regardless of the lake you fish, it’s so important to pay close attention to what the bait is doing. It doesn’t matter whether your lake supports shad, bluegill, gobies, or crawfish and perch, changing baitfish patterns is what really triggers the beginning of the fall bass fishing patterns.

If you visibly start seeing more bait in the shallows, or herons working the bays or terns and gulls circling shallow areas, it could be a sign of some schooling activity. The bass are going where the bait is and that’s where you need to be.

I saw it last week on Lake St. Clair. The last hour of my tournament day, I noticed bass busting shad in the middle of a flat, just like they do later in the year.

And this is a time you can score big if it’s happening on your lake. Granted, it occurs earlier on Northern lakes, but the transition will move quickly into the South.

In the early fall transition, the fish won’t blast just anything and tend to get a little finicky. I’ve found that smaller baits and more natural presentations work best.

The jerkbait is one of my favorite ways to get bites because of its erratic action, plus it’s a lure I can use to cover water quickly. Smaller swimbaits offer another option because you can fish various depths of the water column by adjusting the weight of the jig head.

Obviously, spinnerbaits would be a good choice on windy days while a topwater like a Sexy Dawg is ideal on calm days.

Once you dial in where the fish are holding, like on a flat or point, you can get more methodical with other lure presentations.

If you think it’s too early for the fall transition on the lake you fish, there’s nothing wrong with fishing your deeper summer patterns. But keep an eye out for any other signs that may indicate bait and bass movement.

If the bait is up, the bass will be there – and you may be the only one on the lake who figures it out and comes in with a great catch.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!