Following shad a key to catching fish

Published 12:30 am Sunday, October 26, 2008

The weather this weekend was a repeat of the last.

A cold front brought cold rain through the area on Thursday but cleared out by Friday.

The weekend was a fine time to be out on the water weather-wise but again, good weather does not mean good fishing.

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Bright blue cloudless skies accompanied by high barometric pressure had most of the big fish buried in thick cover while the fish in the deeper lakes were suspended shallow over deep water following schools of shad.

Bass and white perch will feed mostly on shad during the fall season. The shad spawn when water temperatures began to cool off.

Huge schools of baitfish will cruise the open waters and some of the game-fish will follow and feed on the shad.

If you’re faced with post-frontal conditions, you have two choices when fishing for bass and crappie.

You can follow the shad by using your sonar or you can beat the banks with hopes of picking off the few fish that are active. Conditions can change fast during the fall. If you’re lucky enough to be on the water before a cold front passes the shallow bite is the way to go.

There are a couple things you do to increase your success during prefrontal conditions. You can target smaller bass with small lures like Bandit crankbaits, lipless crankbaits or a small spinnerbait or you can forget the numbers and go for big bass.

Bottom lures like a heavy jig or big bulky soft plastics like a Zoom Brush Hawg or NetBaits Paca Craw will attract strikes from big fish.

The white perch fishermen scale down their line and lure size when fishing behind a front and up the lure and line size when fishing ahead of a front.

By making these small adjustments, you can catch fish during the fall regardless of the weather.

The Old Rivers are in good shape for bass and white perch this weekend. The Mississippi River stage at Natchez is around 16.0 feet and falling. The lower river level will expose what little cover is left in the Old Rivers.

What cover you see from the surface of the water should hold fish.

Visible cover does receive the most pressure from fishermen, so look for offshore not visible from the surface when it is available.

By using sonar you can locate cover that others don’t know about. Some of my largest limits of bass come from structure that is not visible above the water line.

Just idle around with your outboard or you can dial your trolling motor up and use your bow mounted unit to locate submerged cover.

Many make the mistake of looking for fish on the sonar.

Unless you’re real good with sonar you will rarely see fish that you can catch on the screen. Instead look for heavy cover and fish it slow.

Big fish don’t get big by being dumb. Many fish never go to the shallows except to spawn. Target the off-shore cover for the smart fish.

Eddie Roberts writes a weekly fishing column for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at