Ott DeFoe dishes about how he catches them when fall hits his favorite east Tennessee reservoirs. Photo by Jesse Schultz

This time of the year in east Tennessee—and maybe even where you’re from as well—our lakes are going into their winter drawdowns. The water level in the lake falls about 6 inches to a foot a day when it starts to cool down. That may deter some people from fishing shallow, but I’m here to tell you, I prefer to stay shallow even with the falling water levels.

I understand that message may go against the common knowledge that falling water levels means that you should back out to deeper water. However, I like to stay really shallow and catch them in a place that’s probably going to be dry land in only one to two days’ time.

Choosing the Right Baits

A lot of these lakes are going to be so shallow that you almost have to fish a topwater lure. A walking bait, a buzzbait and even a frog are must-haves for me in east Tennessee. I fish those in about 6 inches to 1.5 feet of water.

I like a shallow-running crankbait as well. The deepest-running crankbait I’ll use this time of the year is a Rapala DT4 and I like to use different homemade baits that can run even shallower than that. If you can find a crankbait that runs about 2 feet deep, that’s a great one to have as well.

Finding the Visual Targets

Any type of cover that’s in the water is still going to be in play for me, even with those water levels falling. During the summer, the high water levels brought in grass, willow trees and other brush piles into the fish’s habitat for cover. As the water falls, those fish are still going to want to cling to any cover they can find.

While it may not be the grass and trees they were used to, brush piles, stumps and other forms of cover are going to be important to find.

Those pieces of cover are going to start becoming fewer and further between as the drawdown continues, that’s why you should never count out a piece of cover just because you already caught a fish there on any given day. Because there are so few shaded areas left, it’s more than possible that there are five or six bass hiding on one stump.

If you catch one, don’t forget about that area. Come back every hour or so to check it again and see if you can’t get another one to bite.

Upsize or Downsize? How About Both?

Depending on who you ask, you should either upsize or downsize your baits when the fall hits. Instead of picking just one side as right and the other as wrong, I like to give them both a shot. I will say that I think sticking with your normal- or average-sized bites isn’t as effective as bigger or smaller baits.

I like to make sure my topwater baits are usually bigger in size than I would normally throw, while my crankbaits and spinnerbaits I prefer to downsize. My thinking is that you have the big bait fish who are spawning and the little bait fish who have yet to spawn. You won’t see a lot of normal-sized, 3-inch shad.

I hope these tips help you out this fall! Good luck out there, everybody.