Fishing during the late summer and fall can be rough, but figuring it out can be very profitable if you’re a tournament angler. Right now is the time for the Phoenix Bass Fishing League two-day tournaments and Regionals across the country, and it’s also when many club and team tournaments hold their championship events for all the marbles.
Bass Pro Tour angler Casey Ashely got his start in the BFLs, fishing the Savannah River, Bulldog and other divisions while also competing in many club and team championships throughout South Carolina. He’s fished many of these events and offers tips for giving yourself the best shot at a win this year.
Part of what makes fishing so tough this time of year is that things are in flux as the seasons slowly change. Because of this, Ashley suggests increasing your odds of catching a big bag by staying shallow.
“Late summer and into the fall is a big transition period where the fish start to come out of their summer pattern in deep water,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, many fish will stay out deep until it gets cold, but there’s a big push shallow. The oxygen levels are low this time of year and the most oxygen will be in shallow water – plus that’s where the forage like bream will be.”
When talking shallow, he’s referring to ultra-skinny water less than 2 feet deep.
“My thinking this time of year is that if he’s up that shallow, he’s going to bite because he’s only there to feed,” he said. “It’s not just going shallow; you want to look for the shallow ambush points like a single log or anything with shade on it. Docks can also play, but the best ones will be the shallowest ones you can find. Even a little stick in the mud will position the fish in certain spots, and you can almost call your shot when you see them.”
Ashley constantly searches for an influx of water, as well.
“The best places are going to be where a creek or river dumps into the lake, but it could even be a pocket that rain will run in – just something with a little water movement,” he said. “Most of these areas will have stained water. You’re generally searching for individual fish in shallow areas; you’re not going to just pull up and find them loaded in one spot. That’s why covering a lot of water is so important.”
When preparing for a tournament, Ashley says getting bites fishing this shallow plan will take a lot of work, but the reward is there if you stick to it.
“This is how I learned to do well fishing during the toughest time of year – the dog days of summer getting ready for BFLs and club championship events,” he said. “When practicing daylight to dark, a good day is when you get 10 bites in a day, covering a lot of the lake and fishing fast.”
When practicing, Ashley is a proponent of not hooking anything by either cutting off the hook barbs or covering the hooks on baits like buzzbaits, since bites are at a premium this time of year.
“I’m going to shake every one of those fish off during practice because he won’t bite again during the tournament,” he said. “He may not bite again even if you shake him off, but at least you have a chance. That’s a big part of my plan since you don’t get many bites fishing this way.”
According to Ashley, two of the best things you can throw are a buzzbait and a walking topwater bait, and you can do it all day long.
“Most think to only throw them in the morning, but some of my biggest fish on topwater during the late summer have come between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.,” he said. “Doing this strategy will work all over from the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama and even down to Texas. It’s a brutal time of year, but fishing shallow and moving fast with topwater baits will give you the best shot to win a tournament this year.”