Jonathan VanDam’s Keys to Success During Northern States' Rapid Fall Transition - Major League Fishing
Jonathan VanDam’s Keys to Success During Northern States’ Rapid Fall Transition
2m • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour
MY BEST BAIT: Hawk swears by the versatility of the Yamamoto Hula Grub
4d • Bass Pro Tour
1 BAIT/5 REASONS: Gagliardi’s go-to jerkbait excels because of ‘shimmy,’ action and castability
5d • Bass Pro Tour
Q&A with Shin Fukae: His bass fishing history, life on the road and family time in Japan
6d • Matt Naber • Bass Pro Tour
Bass Pro Tour Fantasy Fishing grand champion used MLF Insider and his own research to win
1w • Mason Prince • Bass Pro Tour
NO LIMITS PODCAST (BONUS): Aaron Martens, in his own words
1w • Joel Shangle • Bass Pro Tour
Watson buzzes, plops his way to late-fall topwater success (and so should you)
1w • Bass Pro Tour
VanDam and sons score big bucks on opening day in Michigan
1w • Luke Stoner • Bass Pro Tour
MASTERS SERIES: Lloyd Pickett Jr. on what makes the Carolina rig a powerful tool 12 months a year
1w • As Told by Lloyd Pickett Jr. • Bass Pro Tour
Now’s the time for ripping a lipless crankbait, according to Roy Hawk
2w • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour
Podcast: Marty Stone recaps the Bass Pro Tour season and talks about 2023
2w • MLF • Bass Pro Tour
How Josh Bertrand ties it all together on a new lake
2w • Bass Pro Tour
Jacob Wheeler looks back and into the future after two AOY titles
2w • Bass Pro Tour
Bass Cave with Bryan Thrift
2w • Bass Pro Tour
Cliff Crochet shares his top baits for fishing dirty water
3w • Bass Pro Tour

Jonathan VanDam’s Keys to Success During Northern States’ Rapid Fall Transition

Image for Jonathan VanDam’s Keys to Success During Northern States’ Rapid Fall Transition
Mercury pro Jonathon VanDam heads shallow as rapid fall transition happens in the North. Photo by Phoenix Moore. Angler: Jonathon VanDam.
October 4, 2022 • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour

During the fall of the year, anglers in northern states like Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc., experience some of the best fishing of the year. As the leaves start to change colors, Northerners who spend time on the lake versus the deer stand can cash in on some excellent bass fishing. Michigan-based Mercury pro Jonathon VanDam spends plenty of time in the woods in October, but also gets in on the action in the water.

His approach in early fall boils down to staying on the move – both with his baits and his trolling motor – and focusing on shallow water with proven fall techniques.

Timing the Bite

One of the keys, according to VanDam, is to remain flexible this time of year and be willing to change every day you fish (and as conditions change). The clues that signal that the fall bite has arrived are straightforward – shorter days and the first significant cold front.

“The first thing I try to do when I launch the boat is to figure out what stage the lake is in,” VanDam said. “In northern waters, every transition of the year happens faster than anywhere else in the country. Everything is condensed, whether it’s the spawn cycle or late in the year, so you have to stay on top of what’s happening because it changes daily.”

To gauge the state of the bite on a lake, one of the first places he looks is ultra-shallow water, knowing that the most active fish can usually be found here, especially after the first few nights when the air temperature creeps into the 40s.

“During the fall months, when the fish are feeding, they’ll get shallow after that first cold snap,” he said. “You can’t fish shallow enough and the shallow fish are there for one reason – to eat. They know that the ice is coming soon and you’ll often find a lot of fish grouped up in shallow water and feeding up.”

What to Look For and Top Fall Baits

Two of VanDam’s top fall baits are moving baits, such as a lipless crankbait and a swim jig. Both allow him to fish fast and are great for shallow water.

“The fish are super aggressive this time of year, so it’s a lot of moving baits for me,” VanDam said. “You have to cover water until you find the biggest groups of fish and those baits let you do that.”

When fishing a lipless, he opts for a 7-foot, 4-inch medium-heavy Favorite Phantom PHAT Glass rod, high-speed baitcast reel and 12-pound fluorocarbon.

“That rod is a lot stiffer than a traditional crankbait rod, but it’s great for ripping a lipless from grass,” he said. “It has enough backbone that you can snap the bait free and not get gummed up with grass on every cast.”

VanDam alternates between 14-pound fluorocarbon and 30-pound braid for his swim jigs, depending on the cover. His rod of choice is a 7-foot, 5-inch medium-heavy Favorite HEX rod. “I’ll use the braid for the thicker grass and fluorocarbon for more open water,” he said.

Whether he’s targeting largemouth or smallmouth, VanDam will seek specific targets, primarily transitions and where different vegetation types intertwine.

“I like to look for banks with a mix of cover and harder bottoms,” VanDam said. “Smallmouth like to be on gravel in more open areas and where sand, grass, and rocks mix, but they will still get very shallow. For largemouth, reeds, lily pads, and other grass like milfoil and cabbage will be prime areas, especially if you can find them mixed together in one area.”