Living in Southern California, Bass Pro Tour angler Brent Ehrler may not get the same taste of fall that anglers in other parts of the country experience: water temperatures near his home in San Bernardino County hover in the high-70s (to even the low-80s) in early fall.
But when the Mercury pro fishes tournaments in other parts of the country where the seasonal cool-down is more noticeable, Ehrler relies on a lethal one-two punch of baits to get bit: a topwater and a shallow-running crankbait.
Although it’s the middle of October, colder fall temperatures may not have arrived yet in all parts of the country. If the water temperature remains warm, that’s when Ehrler has topwater on his mind.
“If the water is warm, no matter where you are in the country, I think a topwater is going to get you bit,” Ehrler stated. “I’m looking at grass, rock, open water and schooling fish. You’re going to be fishing pretty shallow, so I really like focusing on that grass first and foremost.”
Ehrler puts the topwater down and picks up his second option – the crankbait – when the water temperature drops noticeably.
“I’m looking more towards the riprap or rocky banks or hard targets near the bank with a crankbait,” Ehrler said. “If you follow those bait fish when it starts to get colder, that’s where you’re going to want to use a shallow-running crankbait. Hard targets are going to be key for this one.”
There are a lot of variables when it comes to fishing in the fall, but one condition that Ehrler doesn’t get hung up on is precise water temperature.
“I don’t really have a certain water temperature where I tell myself it’s time to switch from a topwater to a crankbait,” Ehrler said. “It’s more of a feel for me. If those fish aren’t biting a topwater then it’s going to be a crankbait, or vice-versa. It’s really just about covering water as quickly as you can, finding those targets and casting to them.”
Ehrler uses a medium-light 7-foot Randy Howell Signature Daiwa rod and Daiwa Tatula Elite reel spooled with 30-pound braid to a 20-pound monofilament leader when fishing a topwater. His go-to topwater baits are a Lucky Craft Gunfish 95 or a Sammy 108.
For the crankbait, he goes with a Lucky Craft 1.5 in Pearl Threadfin or any other shad color. He spools 14- or 16-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon on a Daiwa Tatula Elite reel and the same 7-foot Randy Howell Signature Daiwa rod. Ehrler says he will vary which line he uses depending on what target he’s fishing around.
“I throw 14-pound in open water when I don’t think I’m going to be bumping into anything,” Ehrler explained. “I use 16-pound line around stumps and rocks so I don’t get broken off around a cypress knee or anything like that. I’m only running that crankbait in between 2 to 5 feet, so that line just gives me more confidence to make the right cast without adding a whole lot of depth, honestly.”