In the north fall brings colder weather shorter days and great fishing. Fall is one of my favorite times to fish because you can catch bass with so many different types of lures or the fact that like spring there is the chance of catching one of those big hogs.
Like I mentioned there are so many different ways to catch bass in fall from spinnerbaits to jerk baits and so many others in between. I love to fish with all of them; however when the water temp falls into the mid 50’s and these lures stop producing I turn to a football head jig and a flipping jig. You can fish a football head along creek channels and drop offs but I look for something different.
When I think about jig fishing in fall I am thinking about fallen trees (from this point on I will use lay down and fallen tree to mean the same thing). I look for trees that start shallow but the branches end in 8 to 10 feet of water. One way to determine whether a tree is sitting in deeper water is idle by and look at the downed tree with your side imaging unit. However I don’t have a side imaging unit so I look for trees at the beginning of a creek channel near a drop of. One of the other key elements I also look for in a lay down is leaves matted along side of them. If I see this on the surface it tells me that there is a current running throw the tree and stacking the leaves along the side of the lay down.
Once you have found your tree or tree's you need the right equipment. When fishing this way I go with two different jigs. I use an Atomic Tackle Company ½ once football head jig in either PB&J or black and blue, and an Atomic Tackle Company 1 once flipping jig in the same colors. I use a Strike King Rage Tail Craw in green pumpkin with the PB&J jigs. If the bass are not responding I will change to a Zoom chuck in green pumpkin if I need something with less claw action. I dip each plastic in JJ’s Magic Sauce and if it is really muddied water I will use JJ’s Magic Chartreuse dipping dye and dye just the tips of the claws. If I use a black and blue jig I will also switch my trailer color as well, I will use a black and blue trailer. I would recommend that you have super glue with you. When you thread your plastic on to the jig put a small drop of glue at the bottom of the plastic where it meets the jig, it will keep you from fighting with your jig all day long.
I rig my jigs on a 7 ft medium/heavy Abu Garcia VERITAS rod. I use a Quantum Code reel with a 6:3.1 gear ratio. I like the 6:3.1 because I have enough power to winch a bass out of the trees and it picks enough line to get the bass out quick. I spool on 12 lb fluorocarbon to use with the football head jig and 35 lb braid when using the flipping jig. I like the sensitivity I have with the fluorocarbon when I am fishing the football head and the low stretch with the braid so a strong hook set is not a problem with the flipping jig.
Fishing the Jig’s
On sunny days I start out with the PB&J color and the green pumpkin trailer. If I am not getting bites I will switch to the black and blue jig. If it is a cloudy day I will start with the black and blue jig and switch to the PB&J if the black and blue jig is not working.
Most people do not think about throwing a football head jig around lay downs because it is designed to be worked over rocks. However I have had lots of success using a football jig in this situation. It might be because it is a different profile that the bass do not see a lot I am not really sure why it works but it does.
I start by flipping the football head jig to the outside edge of the tree. I like to start on the outside of the tree and work my way back to the heart of it so I do not spook any fish that are not deep in the tree. I will flip the jig to the tree and let it fall to the bottom on a semi slack line making sure I am able to feel a bite if it is picked up on the fall, keeping it on a semi slack line also helps keep the bass from feeling the full weight of the jig when they pick it up. If the jig hits bottom without being hit on the fall I will lift my rod about 3 to 5 ft and let if fall again. If I still do not get a bite I will bring in the jig and make and pitch it a little farther back into the lay down.
As I work deeper it to the tree I will continue to pitch the jig and let it fall on a slack line. However as I work farther back and it falls without a bite I will bring the jig up and over branches and then allow it to fall again a few feet. As you work the jig over the branches you want to be careful not to set the hook on a limb. If you do set the hook on a limb it is a good idea to have a lure retriever with you. I use a Freddies “Set Me Free” lure retriever. This little tool will help keep you from losing a lot of jigs as you learn how to fish this way.
Most of the time I have found that bass do not just inhale the jig but instead nip at the trailer and a few times. When I feel them nip at it I will let the bass nip at it at least twice and then set the hook insuring that it is a bass and not a tree limb. You do not want to let the bass play with the jig to much before setting the hook because it may drop the jig.
When I set the hook with the football head jig I don’t pull straight up instead I sweep the rod to the side. I don’t set the hook by pulling straight up because if it is not a bass or I miss the hook set I am less likely to drive the jig into a limb above it. Once you do set the hook you want to pull the bass out as quickly as you can. Using the fluorocarbon line you do not have to worry about the line digging into the branches but you still want to get the bass out of the tree so it does not break you off.
I will follow this procedure multiple times on a single lay down. I have found during fall I can pull as many as 10 fish off a good size tree when this technique is working. So even after I catch one bass I will work almost every angle of the lay down making multiple casts to it always starting at the front of the lay down and working back into the heart of the tangled mess.
When I come to an area on a lay down with matted leaves on the surface I put down the football head jig and pick up the heavier flipping jig I have laying on the deck of the boat. I only use the flipping jig in this situation. I flip the jig into different spots in the matted leaves. I do not look for holes in the leaves like I would during summer when flipping matted grass. I once again work the outside of the leaves before going into the middle of them. The reason I use the flipping jig among the matted leaves is because it is heavier and the slender cone shaped head allows it to fall through the leaves easier then the football head jig does.
I work the flipping jig just like I would if I was punching mats during the summer. I allow the jig to fall on a semi slack line because it once again keeps the bass form feeling the full weight of the jig and dropping it.
When working the flipping jig I pitch and flip it to the leaves and allow it to fall to the bottom. If I do not get a bite I reel it in and pitch it again. When using the flipping jig the bass inhale the bait and you have to be ready to set the hook at any moment. So once I flip the jig onto the leaves it will sit on the top for a few moments allowing me to switch my rod from one hand to the other. I keep my right hand on the handle of the reel so I can engage the reel at a moment’s notice and set the hook as soon as I feel the bass take the bait. I also keep my pointer finger on the bottom side of the line right in front of where it comes out of the reel. This allows me to feel any change nip or tap on the line.
When I set the hook on the flipping jig I will pull straight up with all the force I have driving the hook deep into the bass’s mouth making sure I have a good hook set. You want to get the bass out of the tree as quickly as you can so it does not pull you into the tree and wrap you up in it and brake off.The next time you are out fishing during fall look for lay downs over deeper water because it can really pay off when other lures are not working. It will take a little practice to learn what a bass bite and a tree branch feels like but once you do you will understand why this technique works as you start bringing in bass when other don’t. It’s a great feeling when you get back to the dock and guys are saying the bass are not biting and you can say I caught them.