This is one of the biggest problems I ran into as a young fellow during the fall. I knew the bass are gorging on threadfin shad. Well, I just so happened to have some lipless crankbaits that looked exactly like the real thing. I’d throw those suckers until my shoulder fell off and would barely get bit. I’d see schools of shad boiling on the surface in the backs of creeks and quality bass feeding on them, but my little ol’ lipless plug wouldn’t even get sniffed. Heck, I’d catch more shad than I would bass. It was honestly infuriating.
After I finally decided to try something different (I’m the most stubborn angler in the world), I started to experiment with different sounds. Was everyone else fishing lipless crankbaits and the bass just became conditioned to the generic rattling sound? Or was I just being completely obnoxious and the bass didn’t want anything to do with a lound presentation?
Honestly, I think it was the latter. My crankbait was “that” guy who showed up late to the party, completely drunk and nobody wanted to hang around him.
This realization came during a November fishing trip with one of my best friends and one of the best anglers I’ve ever known, Matt Henry. We ran across some balled-up shad in the back of a creek and the bass were all over ’em. I was throwing a shallow-diving plug with a fairly loud rattle and Matt was throwing a custom-made, flat-sided balsa plug. For about two hours, we sat in one spot and he caught well over 100 bass. I was on the front deck with him, making the same casts and I caught about 15 bass. That was too much of a discrepancy to ignore.
Since that trip about 10 years ago, I have leaned more heavily on those flat-sided balsa crankbaits and have enjoyed incredible success. Unfortunately, these plugs are more expensive. I’m the biggest tightwad you’ll meet when it comes to money, but in this case, I’d certainly say they’re worth a little extra money this time of year.
If you combine these three factors I outlined, I’m certain you’re going to enjoy more success throughout the remainder of this fall fishing season. During your next trip, remember to keep your crankbait off the bottom, add a little flair to the color and ditch the rattles. It’s not a perfect science, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, that it has worked wonders for me over the years.