BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Bassmaster Elite Series angler John Crews is not only a veteran with more than 16 years as a pro, he is also the founder of Missile Baits, a small soft bait company. His years of expertise have given him unprecedented insight into how to catch bass year-round, including during fall turnover.
What is fall turnover?
“The turnover is when the upper layer of water in a lake gets cold enough and drops down below the previously cooler water below it,” Crews explains. “The lower, less oxygenated layer rises and mixes. That process turns the lake into a fishing mess — stale, oxygen depleted water that’s often oddly stained or tea colored.”
In his latest column on Bassmaster.com, Crews provides insight into how to adjust your strategy and your tactics for success during the fall turnover.
Run, Run and Then Run Some More
Water in bigger lakes rarely all turns at the same time. There is usually good water somewhere. Our job as anglers is to find it. I do that by running around and looking.
One way to do that is to put your boat on the trailer and launch at a different part of the lake. Your other option is to put the hammer down on your big motor. I do both depending on where I am fishing and the weather.
An open bass boat can get cold when you run for miles. On the other hand, though, you get a better look at the water from your boat. There is no right or wrong here. It is a matter of personal preference.
Either way, I go way up in the river and as far back in the creeks as I can get, looking for current in shallow areas. That water never stratifies.
I use a two-prong approach in these areas — a topwater plug and a shallow crankbait. My topwater options are either a buzzbait or Whopper Plopper 110. Both go well with a casting outfit and 30-pound-test Sunline X-Plasma braid.
My crankbait selection varies depending on how shallow I am fishing. I will tell you, though, that I have caught hundreds of turnover bass on a SPRO Little John 50. The flashy shad colors like Chrome Olive or Citrus Shad are fish in the livewell.
There is something else important about going up where I like to go — safety. Lakes are down during the turnover. Some reservoirs drop 15-20 feet or more. Areas with plenty of water over them most of the year are now too shallow for even a bass boat. Running in those places can get hairy.
Hitting a big rock, stump or something else is no small thing. It can damage your boat, motor and wallet. You can risk serious injury by hitting an underwater object, too. Pay attention and remember that you can always idle into unknown areas.
Go Dirt Shallow
During the turnover, I have seen bass in the lower portions of lakes get dirt shallow. Many times, they are facing the bank. It looks like these fish are waiting on crawfish to get ready to hibernate along the shoreline. I’m not a biologist so I can’t say for sure, but baits that are successful strengthen my belief that this is true.
The sides and backs of the pockets are usually where this goes down. These shorelines might have, but do not have to have, rocks along the bank.
I blind-cast a tiny jig or a Ned rig on or dang near right on the shoreline with little or no splash. Sometimes you can actually see the bass. If you spook them, come back later. Stay away from the bank and make long, blind casts. A little Missile Jigs Ike’s Micro Jig is one of my most effective lures.
This is spinning tackle fishing. I prefer a Cashion Rods Micro Jig Rod with a medium size spinning reel. I spool it with braid and a fluorocarbon leader. My braid is Sunline X-Plasma, 12-pound-test. My leader is Sunline FC Sniper, 8-pound-test.
A lighter Ned rig will also work with the same spinning outfit. The difference is the lure. A mushroom style jig head in the 1/16-ounce to 3/32-ounce range is what I am talking about. I put a Missile Baits Ned Bomb on those heads. Fish this rig a little different. Lift and let the bait glide down instead of dragging or hopping it like you would with a micro jig.
The fall turnover is something to be aware of and requires some special preparation. However, it is not something for fishermen to fear. Look for it and know what adjustments to make. There is less pressure on our lakes in the late fall. Take advantage of that.