It’s much easier to catch bass in summer than fall. This is not a surprising truth. But fall is still a much easier season in most regions than winter. I bring this up because I notice that many anglers with kids stop taking them out during the autumn months. Granted, fall may not be the best time for the little tikes, but it is, in my opinion, the perfect season to help those slightly older kids transition from visiting the golf course pond for 15 minutes on a July day to more serious angling. Fall fishing forces you to think and be patient, but it still offers the chance at catching a decent amount of fish. The trick to successful outings with the kids this time of year does not lie in what you catch, but how you present the trip.
I’ve found it’s best to preemptively discuss the realistic expectations with my 7-year-old son before even looking at the lake. I’ll always make some of the goals for the day relate to things other than catching fish. As an example, I can get him pretty jazzed about “testing” some new lures or learning new retrieves. No fish required. Odd as it may sound, I’ve found that he’s more eager to learn in the fall, because he’s not being distracted by bluegill after bluegill on the line. There also aren’t as many other anglers on the water, it’s too cold to swim, and there aren’t ski boats zipping all over…all of which can create major distractions.
When it comes to the actual fishing, choose a method that ups the physical challenge a bit, but isn’t frustrating. Simple cast and retrieve baits like shallow cranks, rattle baits, or small spinnerbaits often get bit this time of year regardless of the retrieve. Try to select areas that lend themselves to a nomadic bite. Maybe a long expansive rocky bank with stained water to crank along, or a big flat with submerged grass to fan cast around. If you put your kid in a situation where the only way to draw strike is landing a lure 6 inches from the left side of a thick brush pile, then crawling the bait at a snail’s pace, it’s going to lead to nothing but frustration for both of you. On a side note, I also believe that fall bass fishing is like prep school for the challenges of other sports. Psychologically, kids that can hack it now will be better at analyzing risks verses rewards. Physically, their hand eye coordination will be developing through longer stints of casting and retrieving instead of sitting and watching a bobber.