Here are some tips for fall fishing on the Arizona central reservoirs.
When water temperatures start to go down and lake levels begin to rise, crankbait time is here again. Fish start moving up and getting more active, and one of the best ways to find them is to start cranking around the same places you found them during the summer, but shallower. Long points that have good drop-offs to deeper water are prime early-fall areas.
Fishing crankbaits is easy, but still requires some effort and attention. You must learn to feel a crankbait while you’re fishing it. A lot of times the fish just barely tick it. Some people like fiberglass rods for crankbaits because they have a lot of give to them, but others prefer a graphite rod so they get a better feel for the bites.
A Killer Technique
Throwing a silver or gold and black Fat Rap in front of the boat and reeling it in at a 45-degree angle from the bank is still a killer technique at Roosevelt, and it always pays to bang your crankbait into things like stumps and rocks–bass often hit just when the lure deflects off these obstacles. If you’re not getting snagged now and then, you’re probably not getting bit much.
When you’re reading the box on a lure, depth claims should be taken with a grain of salt. To get a plug to maximum depth, you’ve got to make a tremendously long cast and even then, it won’t reach its maximum depth until it is 2/3 of the way back to you. Line diameter is a major factor in crankbait depth – the thinner the line, the deeper the bait will go. Fluorocarbon is the choice of many crankbait fishermen not only for the thin diameter, but also because it sinks.
Your Best Bet
Your best bet for getting a crankbait deep is to use a long (7-foot) crankbait rod spooled with 10-pound-test line. Make as long a cast as you can, put the rod tip down, and crank at medium speed. Fast reeling will not get the lure to its maximum depth. If you want to crank an underwater hump that’s fifteen or so feet deep, stay back about thirty feet, make a 100-foot cast, and reel the lure down. It should reach its deepest point right about where the hump is. Keep your rod tip down, but don’t point it right at the lure. Keep it off to the side a little, and when you get bit, just keep reeling to set the hook.
Lipless crankbaits like Rat-L-Traps and Cordell Spots are easier to fish deep. Just let them sink to where you want them and move them slowly along. These two lures have different rattling sounds, so keep both in your tackle box. There have been times when fishermen will swear that Spots are filling the boat while Traps aren’t getting bit, and vice-versa.
If you are fishing really deep, or the water is stained, or the sky is dark, try using one of the crawdad or fire tiger lipless lures. We were at Apache with Dan Westfall one time when we happened upon a man in a little aluminum boat. Westfall is one of those guys who talks to everyone he comes across, and it paid off that day.
This man told us that he had been fishing Saguaro, Canyon, and Apache for several weeks, and that he was just killing ’em by slow-rolling a fire tiger Rat-L-Trap in twenty to twenty-five feet of water. He was just cruising the shorelines and making sure his lure contacted the bottom every time he passed over a point. He had lost quite a few lures, he said, but it was worth it because he caught impressive numbers of fish every day, even when others were getting skunked.
Jerry Loughran, Dan Marzano
A big wobbling deep-diving crankbait fished over the flats can be a real producer, too. At Apache, Jerry Loughran always threw big orange Wiggle Warts on the flats for giant smallmouth, and Dan Marzano worked the flats at Roosevelt with a white Poe’s 400 for similar results. When fish are up on the flats, they are usually there for just one reason–to eat. Take advantage of it and feed them a crankbait. The deep-diving lures will crash against the rocks and make a racket that will draw the fish for long distances.
Another flats technique that has produced for me is to burn a small Rat-L-Trap. If you want a limit in a hurry, throw a small silver Trap right up on shore, then crank it back as fast as you can reel. I’ve done this at Roosevelt and Pleasant, and it gets the fish almost every time. Every now and then a big one will hit it, too.
Wooden, Plastic Lures
In general, wooden lures have a wider wobble and plastic lures have a tighter wobble. The colder the water, the wider you want the wobble. You can make a wooden lure rattle by drilling a small hole, inserting a glass rattle, then sealing and painting the hole.
Bass that are heavily pressured or spooky can often be caught by burning a deep-diving crankbait through them. They don’t have time to make up their mind about it–they either slam it or let it get away. If the fish really have lockjaw, you can fish a tiny lure like a Rebel Critter on light line with a spinning rod. A tiny slip-sinker on the line will get the lure down deeper and make it easier to cast.
Finding Fish In The Fall
In the fall you can often fish a deep-diving crankbait all day long. Fish move up early to feed shallow, then move out deeper as the day goes on. If you are catching fish at a certain depth, follow the contours around at that depth and keep catching them. If the bite turns off, movedeeper or shallower and look for the fish. They’re still around, they’ve just moved to a different depth.
Finding fish in the fall can be an easy proposition once they get active enough to start chasing a crankbait. Make sure you have good hooks on your plugs, and check your line often for fraying. Big fish and big money sometimes come on crankbaits, and this is the time of year to start plugging away.