At boat shows I see people walk through Starcraft Pontoon Boats I always see the same thing: Dad is looking to fish while Mom wants to relax. Then I get asked "Does this boat have a livewell?" Unless we are talking about a specific fishing pontoon, which Starcraft does have, most of the time there is not a livewell. This can then turn into a deal breaker for some people. Here's the thing, how often are you going to be keeping your catch to eat? More often than not you are going to throw your catch back unless you keep it for dinner. If that's the case, making a livewell out of a cooler isn't a bad idea. This is because you can get the perfect boat you want, even though the one thing it might not have is a livewell.
But this doesn't mean you can't get out and do some great fishing from your pontoon, so that's what I set out to do. I called up my buddy Captain Callum Johnson of Happy Go Fishing Charters to see if we couldn't wrangle up some Small Mouth Bass. Small Mouth Bass are great fun because they're aggressive, are always biting and they put up a great fight. Usually you will see them break the surface of the water and jump out as you reel them in. Now you may also think that bass are a summer fish, but fall bass are great to catch because they spend this time feeding and feeding to get them prepared to lay dormant for the winter so given you are in the right spot you will catch many of them, and some big ones too!
Captain Cal's Tips for Fall Bass Fishing.
Bass fishing in the fall can be some of the best times for getting into the hottest action for both numbers and size. Here are some key pointers to help you get in on the action.
1. Be prepared
Of course with any fishing adventure being prepared goes without saying. Safety gear, emergency kits, change of clothes, food and drinks are all important items to keep you having fun on the water but right now I'm talking fishing tips so I'm saying make sure you are prepared for various fishing applications.
Fall fishing can be very unpredictable, Bass will move around alot so you may need different lures and techniques to keep you catching fish. Bass' mood may change from one hour to the next. One minute you maybe catching fish on slow moving bottom dwelling soft plastics, the next they may want fast moving hard body baits or spinnerbaits. Being able to switch applications from one cast to the next can be the difference of you getting bites or just making casts. Plan your trip with more than one rod with different lures on each to allow for quick presentation changes. If your budget doesn't allow for all the gear, use one versatile rod and reel combo that can be used effectively for different lures. Tie a small snap swivle to the end of your line to allow for quick lure changes. Once you find the right bait, keep using it untill it stops working and start experimenting again!
2. Choosing the right lures
Everybody has there lucky favourite lure and if you do I would say to use it! Here are some lure choices I have used with repeated success for fall time Bass fishing
Spinnerbaits: In the early fall spinnerbaits can be one of your best choices for catching giant fall Bass. When the water temperature is in the 60's there is almost no wrong way to retrieve spinnerbaits. This time of year there is no such thing as retrieving too fast, I feel like the faster the better! As the fall season progresses and the water temps drop further. "Slow rolling" a spinnerbait is a deadly choice. Slow rolling is reeling in the bait as slow as possible yet keeping the blades of the bait rotating at all times. Try both these methods, you won't be disappointed!
Tube jigs have been around for a long time and for good reason. They flat out catch fish! With so many options of colors, size and weight I'm going to try and simplify your choosing.
When fishing a Tube Jig you are 95% of the time working the bait slowly along the bottom.
When choosing a color Tube Jig I like trying to match the color of the bottom I'm fishing. Example if I know I'm fishing sandy bottom I will opt for sandy colors, around rocks I will go for darker colors like brown or even black, weeds I will choose green colors. I either try to match the bottom I will be fishing or matching the forage the fish are feeding on.
Because this is a slow presentation and the fish have time to scrutinize your bait before biting so it is very important to have appropriate line size choice before making any casts. 8-10lb fluorocarbon or Monofilament will be your best choice. When it comes to choosing the weight for the jig head, the rule of thumb is to use the lightest you can get away with yet maintaining contact and feeling to your lure. High winds or deep water require heavier jig heads (3/8-3/4 oz jig heads) Low winds and shallow water (1/8-1/4oz jig heads)
Also known as rip baits, these sporadic presentation lures have caught alot of big fall time Bass. Twitching and pausing suspending jerkbaits is hard for a bass to say no to. You can use the bait as aggressive as you like or as subtle as you like. Also varying the length of the pause. All those are factors you have to experiment with each day to get bites. Again there are two ways to choose the best color. Similar to the tube jig you want to match the surroundings or the forage. Since a jerkbait is used in the upper part of the water column, fish are always looking up at the bait. You can choose to match the color of the sky. Cloudy days I opt for whites, sunny days blues or you go for natural colors that fool a Bass' keen eye.
Of course there are lots of lures out there to catch Bass but these are 3 fall time must haves in the boat.
3. Choosing your spot
No matter what equipment you have it is hard to catch fish if they aren't around!
Like I said earlier the Bass can move around alot this time of year. It's good to have an idea of areas to look for when it comes to finding the next honey hole.
Steep Ledges, drop offs and humps are all great places to start looking. With the weather being so volatile this time of year the fish like the ability to go from shallow water to deep water (or visa versa) with very little effort. You will find big concentrations of fish in these areas.
Flats are also keys areas to check. These are also known as feeding flats so of course you want to fish these spots! They look like large vast parts of the lake with relatively shallow consistent depth. Areas from 5-12ft deep will be good. If you can find a flat with a steep ledge or deep water near by you may be in business!
Fishing from the pontoon was GREAT! We were faced with a light breeze out of the West and while other boats would hev been blown around we drifted perfectly over the ridge we were fishing. The flat deck and open floor plan allowed us to move throughout the boat to change equipment, but as we did so the boat never rocked or was tippy. When we did catch a fish, being able to open one of the htree gates to get the fish inside the boat made things much easier and safer, especially when it came time to release the fish. We were able to get right down to the waterline to hand release each fish.
What are your Pontoon fishing stories? Do you have any pictures? Please share with the hashtag #StarcraftSummerFun and cast them our way.
Until next time, see you out on the water!