Last week’s column discussed some lures that are good for catching largemouth bass in the fall. If you are interested in having a successful fall season using any of those lures or other lures you may choose, success depends on the location of the baitfish. Regardless of the lake species you are targeting, the presence of shad will make a big difference in whether you are successful.

Two fish migrations occur in lakes Sinclair and Oconee during the fall and winter. The first migration occurs as the lake transitions from summer to fall (where we are now) and the second migration occurs when the lake transitions from fall to winter. 

We are in the early fall transition period now and the fall fishing period may last from now until middle or late December depending on when cold weather arrives and drops the water temperature below 55 degrees. 

The game fish and their primary food source, threadfin and gizzard shad, will first move from deep water to shallow water (summer to fall transition) and then from shallow water to deep water (fall to winter transition). Shad become the one key ingredient to the angler’s success during both of these migrations.

During the early fall, largemouth bass and other game fish species like hybrid bass, striped bass, catfish and crappie will return to the shallows to feed on shad and fatten up before winter arrives. This migration has slightly begun in both lakes as the water temperature has finally dropped below 80 degrees.

Fall brings a drop in air temperature and that results in a simultaneous drop in the water temperature. As the water temperature drops through the 70s and 60s, the game fish will feed on shad that have taken up residence in large schools in the cooler oxygenated water of the creeks and large coves.

That movement or migration occurs over several weeks but if you concentrate on locating schools of shad, those shad will let you know the location of the game fish. There is no other time of the year when the presence of shad is more vital to an angler’s success in catching largemouth bass than in the fall.

When targeting largemouth bass, Lake Oconee is well known for being a good topwater lake and Lake Sinclair is known as a good crankbait lake. However, both lakes are good for both topwater and crankbait lures. Any crankbait that you can use to look like and act like a shad is what you want to use. Also, spinnerbaits and jigs will catch their share of largemouth bass in the fall.

Crappie anglers have learned that the fall can be an excellent time to catch crappie. The crappie will also migrate along with the shad to those same areas where you caught them in the spring. They want be around docks in large numbers even though there is some spawning in the fall but they will migrate to the coves in large numbers to feed on shad. 

Trolling or vertical fishing over brushpiles or underwater trees will catch crappie in the early fall in both lakes. In the early fall, the crappie will congregate in large numbers in standing timber especially in Lake Oconee. 

The crappie in Lake Oconee are now in the standing timber and can be caught in those trees with jigs and minnows in water that is 10-16 feet. They will be there until the water gets colder by late November or early December and then will they move to open water where trolling begins to be a better choice for crappie anglers.

I do not have enough space this week to deal with catching other lake species in this article but rest assured that the catfish, hybrid bass, white bass and striped bass will be around schools of shad feeding during the fall. Fall angling can be excellent on both lakes with the fall season being a delightful time to be on the water. 

The largemouth bass are congregating on the main lake points and at mouths of coves right now. Just remember, the presence of shad is the important key to catching all game fish during the fall. See you next week.


— Outdoor columnist Bobby Peoples can be reached via email at

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