David Dudley explains why he downsizes his swimbaits and even reaches for crappie jigs when fall rolls around. Photo by Josh Gassmann

We’re in the thick of fall fishing right now as we sit in the middle of October. It can be tough sometimes, for sure. But, if you have the right bait tied on, it can make all the difference, especially if that bait is a little bit different than what the fish normally see.

A really small swimbait (or even a crappie jig) is something that I discovered can work really well this time of the year to get multiple bites.

I learned fishing around my home in Virginia that crappie-style swimbaits are great in the fall, and that held true even during my travels across the country. You may pick a technique up when you’re back home, but you never know if it’s going to work somewhere else unless you try it.

Well, this is battle-tested for me.

Here’s How and When I Use It

Crappie-style baits that imitate shad are perfect for catching fall bass because the presentation is so much smaller than other baits. The shad are small, so you don’t necessarily need a big bait to fool these fish.

I usually go with a 2.8-inch swimbait because I think anything over 3 inches is getting too big. When you’re working in the back of creeks and you see those bass busting on shad, that’s when you should reach for these kind of baits. I like to use them with a 4- to 6-pound test leader with 10-pound braid to help me with my casting distance.

I just mentioned doing this in the backs of creeks, but you don’t necessarily need to be in the back of a creek to try this out. Anywhere that you think there’s a fish around, I suggest using this technique.

When it comes to the retrieve, the fish are going to tell you how fast or slow you bring that bait back in. Sometimes they’re going to want it fast, so you have to up the gear ratio in your reel and put a bigger weight on. Even with a smaller bait, you might need to bump up the weight from 1/8-ounce to 1/4-ounce to get the desired speed on the retrieve.

Let me be clear, I don’t know for sure that this technique is going to help you catch a personal best, but it’s definitely going to help you get bass in the boat.

I hate fishing in the fall and I think it’s about as tough as it can be. However, when you downsize those swimbaits, it makes it a whole lot easier than trying to beat your head against a wall working a big topwater or crankbait. The fish that are chasing shad are not going to be the biggest fish in the body of water. But, if you’re looking to just get bit, then this may be the best strategy this fall.