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First printed in
The Morning News
of Northwest Arkansas
Aubrey's Notebook:
Arkansas Fishing a Fall Feast

Shallow or deep? Dingy water or clear? Close to cover or out in the open.

Bass fishermen have a lot of questions to answer every time they head out to fish in late October.

Each successive cold front leaves the water a bit cooler. Each rain muddies up a few more acres, even in the big mountain reservoirs.

Dressing for fishing also can be affected by the fronts. Anyone operating a fast bass boat is likely to be wearing a snowmobile suit or insulated coveralls when starting out in the morning. Many wear shorts, tee shirts and athletic shoes under the heavy gear in order to adapt to fishing conditions afternoons.

A jogging suit or sweat suit can be the perfect intermediate garment, over the shorts and under the coveralls. Temperatures can feel like freezing at 40 miles per hour early in the morning and then like 90 when casting rapidly under a clear afternoon sky.

Picking lures, of course, can be equally tricky. A topwater lure or a heavy jig may be equally effective on an October day. A plastic worm or a crank bait can serve well when fish are holding at intermediate depths.

Shad-imitating lures can be perfect when bass are spotted surfacing to thrash schools of baitfish. But crawdad-imitating crank baits may be the best choice on a portion of the same waterway where shad are scarce but bottom cover is right for crawdads.

The main thing is setting out with an open mind. Conditions change with the weather. Things that worked a year ago on the same day of the month might be worthless this year. But even though conditions may not seem the same there is good reason to give last year's successful method first shot at doing the job.

Don't neglect bream and crappie this time of year if black bass don't bite readily. Chances are the big crappie won't be biting shallow yet, the way they do in winter and early spring. But the small ones often bite well. And bream fishing also is likely to be good in late October. The large bream, however, may be deeper than most Arkansans like to find them.

Those of us who value fishing for panfish as much as we value fishing for bass are seldom disappointed in Arkansas waterways, even when cold weather comes.

The docks and other businesses along Arkansas trout streams would like fishermen to give up on warm-water species early and head to the Little Red or below-the-dam White River trout water every chance we get. And many do. But I confess to being a die-hard crappie, bass and bream fisherman. I won't give up on the warm-water fish until hunting season draws me to other interests.

Trout, however, often cure my cabin fever in winter. Others, however, go after stripers on the big reservoirs and for both stripers and sauger below the dams on the Arkansas River in winter.

And the worst days of winter should be a reminder that walleye fishing is about to get good on Lake Ouachita, Greers Ferry and a few other waters.

Arkansas fishing can be a continuous feast for those who refuse to let the need for gloves, stocking caps and rainsuits dampen their enthusiasm for fishing.

If today turns out partly cloudy but rainless, I'll likely try to find some clear, shallow water to check for actively feeding largemouth bass. Maybe I'll even check out a favorite mountain stream if the early morning air doesn't scare me off from wading. Hot fishing action can take the sting out of the cold.


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Aubrey James Shepherd
Fayetteville, AR © 2003, 2004, 2005

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