Bobby Peoples

Anglers are hoping for a few cool mornings to send a signal to the fish that the transition to fall is beginning. 

Those early morning temperatures in the 50s will signal the early stages of fall fishing. Unfortunately, the continuing hot weather doesn’t make it feel anything like the fall season is approaching. 

The transition to the fall season for all species of fish in Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee will have to wait for cooler weather. Fall officially begins Sunday, Sept. 23, but the fish don’t need a calendar. Water temperature is their gauge as to when the transition begins and the water temperature has only dropped slightly.

Most fish of all species are still in their summer pattern, primarily in deep water, and will await cooler water temperatures before migrating in large numbers to shallow water. The complete transition from deep to shallow water will take several weeks but once it begins, the fish will stay shallow for a couple of months or more depending on the arrival of colder weather.

The fall fishing can be fantastic as the fish gorge themselves on shad before winter arrives. During the early fall, largemouth bass and other fish species like hybrid/striped bass, catfish and crappie will return to the shallows to feed on shad and fatten up before winter arrives. 

My wife Wanda reacts to the cooler weather just like the fish do. After a few cool mornings, I start hearing suggestions from her about turning off the air conditioning, filling up the propane take for the gas logs, getting out the blankets and the long-sleeved shirts. I know without checking the water temperature that the fall transition has begun.

The drop in water temperature triggers a change in the fish’s movements and eating habits. The largemouth and other fish species will begin a migration from their deeper summertime locations to the backs of creeks and larger coves. As the water temperature drops through the 70s and 60s, the largemouth will feed on shad that have taken up residence in large schools in the cooler oxygenated water of the creeks and large coves.

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

Cooler incoming creeks and small streams create high levels of oxygen and this draws the shad. The backs of the creeks and large coves will provide good water, and the shad are drawn to those locations. The largemouth, catfish, crappie and hybrid/striped bass will then follow these schools of shad.

Threadfin shad are the baitfish of choice on both Oconee and Sinclair and they are the key ingredient if you are to be successful catching fish during the fall season. Find schools of threadfin shad and you will greatly improve your chances of finding hungry fish. The fish are looking for shad so they can gorge themselves and fatten up before the onset of winter.

It does not take a drastic drop in water temperature for the fish to realize that changes are coming. Those slight temperature changes have not yet begun on Oconee and Sinclair. When that does occur, it is time to get out the crankbaits and topwater plugs for largemouth and hybrid/striped bass when the shad move into the coves and creeks. Crappie anglers can begin trolling again with jigs and minnows in those same good springtime locations and the big catfish will also visit relatively shallow water.

Some anglers tend to believe that the largemouth bass are easier to pattern on Oconee in the fall than on Sinclair. However, the best fall baits tend to be about the same on both lakes. On both lakes look for shallow water stumps, dock post and other objects where you can cast topwater offerings like a buzzbait, a Pop-R or a Zoom Trick worm. 

The absolute best lure on both lakes in the fall is the crankbait. Crankbaits like the Strike King Series 3, Poe’s 300, Rat-L-Trap, Bandit Series 100 and 200 or some of the new square bill crankbaits are all good choices. The fish are feeding on shad and nothing mimics the shad better than a small crankbait.

The fall fishing season is surely about to begin and it will really heat up when the water temperatures drop thru the 70s to the 50s. Remember that the presence of threadfin shad in the area you are fishing is the key to fall angling success on lakes Oconee and Sinclair. 

When anglers see large schools of shad moving into coves it will signal the fall fishing season is underway Anglers still have time to watch a few early September football games or try for a deer before the fall fishing season gets cranked up but it can get cranked up in a hurry. 

Good fishing and see you next week.    

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