Fall is a beautiful time of year, especially in Tennessee. Our large variety of trees flame color across the landscape and reflect wonderfully from the surface of some of the clearest reservoirs in the nation.
Percy Priest, in Nashville, Tennessee, is on such Volunteer State reservoir where you can catch an eyeful of beauty and a whole lot of bass.
Though you can catch some truly big bass in this lake, it's probably known more for numbers than trophies, especially now.
And if you were to ask any serious bass angler where to chase fish in fall, when fishing large impoundments, like Percy Priest, nearly all of them would tell you it's all about locating the baitfish. It's a case of predators following their prey. And what the bass are doing is following shad as they move shallow in fall.
Threadfin shad are a perfect size in the fall and they concentrate in huge schools and are easier to locate than individual bass. Normally, in fall, if you find the shad, you are going to find the bass as well. In fact, it's not at all impossible for bass anglers to find a school of baitfish and catch their limit while simply following the school.
If you want to locate the schools, sometimes wildlife can lend a wing. Birds also feed on the schooling bait, and can easily spot them from the air. So, now is good to keep one eye on your electronics and another on the air for the tell-tale flocks of birds.
The cooling water temps in the shallows are what spark the shad migration to coves, hollows and creek arms. And as noted, anglers have to know what's going on to follow them.
Often you will be able to see the baitfish just below the surface with the naked eye, but a pair of polarized sunglasses will certainly make it even easier. Sometimes you can see the schools simply as they churn the surface, and as the bass tear into the schools.
And then there are other times you must rely a lot on your graphs, especially when the schooling bait goes deeper.
Finding and following the bait fish in fall is one of the most dependable patterns.
The coves are far more protective than open water and warm faster in spring and cool off faster in fall. These temperature differences from the main lake are what draw the shad from the main lake. So, the bass are not only shadowing the bait, but they too are coming into the coves for increased comfort.
There are actually two spawning seasons for threadfin shad. One is in early- to mid-spring, and the other is in early- to mid-fall. So, shad are also coming shallow to spawn this time of year.
There are no exact dates as to when the movement of shads into the shallows happen. It depends on the latitudes of the reservoir. But one thing is predictable: the combination of large concentrations of bait and bass, equal incredible opportunities for fall anglers.
Remember it's important to specialize in lure selection and techniques to take full advantage of this fall phenomenon. And Percy Priest is perhaps the best and most dependable locale in the state to do just that.
Be sure to check it out at Percy Priest this November in Nashville.
It's also a great time and place for not only smallmouth and largemouth but also for stripers, white bass and hybrids.
And remember when you locate these schools of shad, under the birds, it can be a lot of fun to catch them on topwater baits like a Heddon One Knocker Spook. When the fish go down beneath the surface, try fishing Bass Pro Shops blade bait or Sonar-type bait, while a jigging spoon can also be exceptional.
Again, follow the bait with your graph. Good areas at Percy Priest to fish for schooling activity include the Hong Kong and Spring Creek areas. Of note, especially for smallmouth, is the Hamilton Creek region. Here, you will want to fish plastic grubs for the smallies.
On another note, an added locale that should continue to be productive in November is the stretch below Old Hickory Dam. Smallmouth and largemouth will remain active in three to 10 feet of water on crankbaits and grubs along the riprap of the dam. The fishing can be good all the way down to Old Hickory Boulevard.
So, give both locations a try should you be in the area. There is certainly not a better and more beautiful time of year to catch fish than in fall.
It is a great time to fish Tennessee, so be sure when you go to catch one for me!