Though I’m sure you’re as sad as I am that summer is officially coming to a close, there’s not much we can do about it other than start getting in the right mindset for fall bass fishing. In the coming weeks, the fish you’ve been catching in the shallow grass and wood will start to move towards rocky areas. Rock piles are often the focal point of the best fall action, as the hard structure heats quicker in the sun, giving bass a place to warm up as the temps drop. Most guys will approach a fall rock pile with proven lures like that trusty football jig or a square-billed crankbait. As for me, my goal is always to try to get the biggest bass off the pile right out of the gate. To do that, I’ve learned to step away from the usual producers and start with some offerings not often associated with fall bass in the rocks.
One of the biggest problems with jigs and cranks around rocks is that they get hung up. If you choose to go in and retrieve a hung lure instead of breaking off, chances are you’ll spook every bass on the structure, including the big ones. With that in mind, I always start fishing a rock pile by making a few fan casts with a large bait that’s both surface-oriented and has big bass drawing power. Presenting something that the fish don’t often see may be all it takes to hook up with the resident stud on a given pile within the first three casts. Even if you don’t think your bass are big enough to chomp a big bait, remember that in fall, fish are putting on the feedbag hard, so large meals can be appealing.
My first choice is a large hard body swimbait, such as Deps Slideswimmer 115, that has a “slalom” action, otherwise called an S-stroke. The slow swaying/gliding motion is much different than the traditional tight-wobble swimbaits you might be used to. These slalom action baits shine when presented over rock piles because many of them are neutrally buoyant, which allows you to pause or twitch the large bait in the strike zone near a key rock or at the terminal edge of the pile longer. Another lure worth a try is a large popper—4 inches or longer—on fluorocarbon line. One of my favorites is River2Sea’s Bubble Popper. I emphasize the line in this case because fluoro’s sinking characteristics cause the lure’s nose to dip just a little and really helps the cupped face create a ruckus when aggressively pulled. You want the presentation to be loud so the bass can’t mistake the lure’s presence, and (hopefully) they’ll decide they just have to kill it.