River Bass, the Thrill of Autumn
No other time can compare to fall, and no other place can give you as much fishing action for river bass as
Idaho's life blood, the Snake River. Nestled along southwestern Idaho's farmland the mighty Snake quietly
meanders with wide stretches of easy flowing eddies and scattered islands. Spread throughout river's lowland contours are numerous streams,
rivers, creeks, and farm drainage systems creating countless water sanctuaries for both smallmouth and largemouth bass.
by Dennis Udlinek
In fall, bass instinctively predict the coming of the winter snows by the dropping water temperatures. Schools of fish begin to move into the
shallows with the cooling water to forage on whatever they can. Being armed with only a bag full of a baits, cast to the right spots, even the
more novice of anglers can be rewarded with the "thrill of autumn!"
The hungry bass seem to key on subtle drops behind gravel bars, eddies behind islands, and shoreline points. My
favorite locations are created by drainage water discharging into the river from local farmlands. The key is to position yourself so you can fish
the length of the eddy from the very point at which the eddy begins to form to the deepest part of the downstream end. The only way you can
fish too far up into the eddy is to cast onto the shore. I have seen smallmouth get so shallow into the headwater of the eddy that I could see
their dorsal fins stick out. When you see bass doing this, they are always in a what I call a "fall feeding frenzy," because they are pushing small
fry and minnows virtually on to the bank.
Minnow imitations between two and five inches long will work, especially if your bait is in colors similar to local forage in the river. As my counterpart, the avid trout fisherman would say, the key is "matching the hatch." When youíre not sure what types of minnows are there, simple colors seem to work as well as any, such as white, yellow, brown, or black. By fall, numerous river inhabitantsí off-spring have grown to a delectable size. This, added to the ever present minnow population in a local crawdad hole and you have a bassiní bonanza! All you need to throw-in is the right rig.
After years of perfecting different techniques for fishing river bass, I found the split shot rig to work best.
The rigging allows for easy weight changes, important to changing river current and allowing for subtle contact with the bottom while the
bait (tube jig, plastic worm or grub) drifts with the pace of the current. This is important, because if the drift is too fast or too slow the fish
will often let the unnatural bait go by!
Controlling Your Drift
Make your cast into the current just past the upstream leading edge of the eddy break-line, and drift your bait, bouncing of the bottom, at
an angle that allows the tender morsel to pass through the strike zone (inside edge of the eddy) where an awaiting bass with likely be ready to
pounce. Bass tend to hang just inside the current to wait on feed passing by. This allows them to expend a minimum of energy while posturing
themselves for the attack. But don't be fooled into thinking that's the only place they'll be. Many times bass can tuck behind a small rock, subtle
break or move to the slack water section of the eddy. These areas need to be fished as well.
Picking Your Cast
An often overlooked location along eddies is the upstream edges. I have caught some of the biggest smallmouth Iíve ever landed in the
undercurrent of the upstream, leading edge of the eddy. The upstream location is often very swift and requires continuous contact with the
bottom, and the bait, concentrating with the baits every movement. The take, or "hit" by the bass in these areas will often by subtle, as it often
is with larger smallies, so stay especially alert.
My favorite fall fishing is during the heart of pheasant, duck, and goose season, when everyone seems intent on jet boating up and down
the river in pursuit of a weary fowl. I, on the other hand, had some sense about me and recognized the sudden rise in air temperature that
signals the blue, sun-shine days of "Indian Summer." This phenomenon frequently happens in the West, and is
as if the "fall feeding frenzy" were multiplied. Before noon I had shed my last layer of warm clothing and had already caught and released fall fishing for river smallmouths,
with its colorful surroundings, scents and sounds of autumn, and its arm-busting action, seems the sensible thing to do. Actually, any
bright blue sun-shiny day is a good excuse to dig out the old bassiní tackle and go fishing for a lifetime of lasting experiences.