As nights are getting cooler, diehard anglers are champing at the bit to get into what many think is the best bass fishing of the year.
Rex Pendergrass at Watson’s Marine has some advice for eager anglers.
Just simmer down.
“You know in spring when you get that first warm week or so and everybody goes nuts? They run out and start throwing spinnerbaits expecting it to be on. And it ain’t happening,” Pendergrass .
“It’s the same deal now, only in reverse.”
Just as it takes a while for cold water to heat up, it takes a while for warm water to cool down.
Pendergrass’ rule of thumb is that you don’t see genuine fall fishing until a series of hard frosts.
“We’re going to get that first hard frost and everybody thinks ‘Man! Tomorrow it’s going to be good!’ No. It isn’t. Not until a week or two goes by with two or three hard frosts,” he said.
So even though it feels more like fall, the tactics are still more summer time stuff.
On Boone there have been a variety of reports. Much of the action has been topwater, with Zara Spooks teasing up bass early and late. There have also been reports of shallow crankbait action.
Anglers practicing for a BASS Federation tournament on Douglas this weekend have encountered a lot of fish up in the river being caught on buzzbaits and flipping jigs.
Rod Colyer at Colgard Outdoor Sports in Norton reports that bass anglers on Cherokee Lake have been getting into fish up in the river. The crankbait bite and jig bite has been very solid.
There have been solid reports of catfish caught in the Clinch River from St. Paul on downstream. He has no idea what bait is being used.
Smallmouth anglers in that river continue to have great outings throwing small crankbaits. Rapala Shad Raps and Tiny Big O’s have been popular with that crowd.
Colyer is enamored of a new Rapala bait that he believes is ideal for river fishing in the fall.
“It’s called a Scatter Rap. It doesn’t run in a straight line like a crankbait. It’s almost as if it foul hooked itself. It kind of behaves like a Zara Spook under water,” Colyer said.
It takes a slightly slower retrieve to maximize the truly erratic movement of the lure, which mimics the action of baitfish randomly scattering after predators break up a bait ball.
For river fishing, the colors Colyer would recommend for this lure would be crawdad and fire tiger.
On the fly fishing beat Randy Ratliff of East Tennesee the Fly guide service has been getting into all kinds of things this week.
“We floated the Holston proper for smallmouth and it was topwater poppers all day,” said Ratliff, who floated both sections from Church Hill to Surgoinsville.
It is interesting that these fish were feeding up when they had clearly been feeding down. He said most of the fish they caught were either spitting up crawdads or had crawdads in their gullets.
“The crawdads are in that second molt. That’s when they get that bright orange color and a super soft shell,” Ratliff said.
As for trout, he said the South Holston tailwater has been “fishing phenomenal.” Big brown trout are moving upriver toward the spawning areas and a lot of trophy rainbows are mixed in with them.
“We caught fish after fish in the 14 to 19 inch range. We also caught a three rainbows between 19 and 21 inches. Everything in the river is moving and feeding,”
Most of the trout were caught on nymph rigs, with some variation of the Zebra Midge accounting for most of the fish. Good old purple continues to catch trout, but Ratliff has had success mixing in gray-silver, blue-silver and black-silver versions.
He noted that the trout fishing on the Watauga tailwater has been good up high on the river. The trophy section of the river between the bridges, however, appears to be overrun with stripers, which are evidently gobbling up the trout the TWRA have recently stocked.
It looks as if it might a good time to invest in a 10-weight rod and some big streamers. And wedge a big ice chest into your drift boat. And get ready to fire up the grill.