By David A. Brown
Special to BassFan
Jason Christie’s not a gluttonous guy. A former college basketball star who keeps himself in shape, the Bassmaster Elite Series competitor from Park Hill, Okla. knows how to moderate his meals.
Fall bass – not so much. That’s why Christie will soon be adopting an angling strategy predicated on exploiting the gluttony. But don’t mistake this for a one-stop buffet where bass can park their backsides and gorge at will.
Rather, Christie stresses the mobility factor necessary for autumn success.
“First of all, I’m going to cover water and if I’m going to do that, I need baits that allow me to fish fast,” he said. “A lot of times, fall fishing can be a little tougher than normal. But if you cover enough water, you’ll find places that have the right amount of bait — not too much bait, not zero bait.”
Indeed, when the calendar passes the Autumnal equinox, Christie shifts his tackle selection toward a lineup that'll help him track down those highly mobile fall bass, take advantage of concentrations he may find and also pick apart particularly attractive cover.
Here's a look at the first-stringers:
Frog: For targeting the matted grass beds that are starting to fragment, as well as pockets of pads or shady overhangs, Christie likes a Booyah Pad Crasher frog. That traditional walking-style offering handles a lot of his fall work, but Christie maintains a diverse arsenal.
Christie’s fall arsenal includes topwaters, squarebills, jigs, spinnerbaits and frogs.
“If it’s windy, if the water’s dirty, if I need to create more disturbance, I’ll throw the popper,” he said.
Christie will tie both baits on 50-pound Sunline FX2 braid.
Topwater walker: For mimicking the lazy saunter of an ambling baitfish, with the ability to accelerate the pace and emulate that frantic fleeing motion, Christie likes a bone-color Heddon One-Knocker Spook. Complementing that enticing baitfish look, this bait features a single tungsten rattle within a sound-intensifying chamber that produces a loud thump. The way this rattle chamber is positioned in the bait also facilitates the classic walk-the-dog motion.
“It’s the rattle; that deep chook, chook, chook,” Christie said of his Spook preference. “It seems like that sound will call them out of deep water.”
Christie will throw his Spook around a variety of cover, from the outer edges of grass beds to laydowns and seawalls. One thing he stresses: Don’t overlook docks.
“I like to throw topwaters around docks to see who lives there,” Christie said. “In the fall, there are no boundaries — you’ll catch them in 2 feet, you’ll catch them busting bait in 30 feet. It’s really just covering water; keeping the bait moving.”
Christie uses 30-pound Sunline SX1 braid for his Spook work. Adding 2 feet of 22-pound monofilament leader eliminates the braided line’s strong visual presence while helping keep the bait from getting tangled in the braid.
Notably, he’s found that adding a Lindy snap increases the bait’s action and provides a little more head weight to keep the nose down for a bolder, digging action. Also, replacing a loop knot, the clip allows Christie to change baits quickly.
Spinnerbait: The Covert line that Christie helped create for BOOYAH includes several dozen different models that cover a broad range of conditions and scenarios. For simplicity, Christie makes matching baitfish size his top criteria.
“A lot of times in the fall, you’re fishing around smaller shad because they’ve hatched that year,” he said. “So, a lot of it is going to be smaller blades, like a No. 3 or No. 4 Colorado and a No. 3 or 3 1/2 willow-leaf. For me, the blade combinations are smaller in the fall than in the spring.”
Spinnerbaits are a critical fall tool and those Colorado blades work best in dirtier water.
As for blade style, Christie said he bases his selection on water color. The dirtier the water, the more he’ll rely on the round blade’s thump, but when he needs a faster pace for clear water, willow-leaf blades get the call.
“With skirts, the clearer the water, the more translucent colors you want; the dirtier the water, the more you want chartreuse or white,” Christie said. “My go-to color is chartreuse/white/blue.”
Christie throws his spinnerbaits on 22-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon.
Squarebill: For banging around rocks and wood, Christie prefers a BOOYAH XCS 200. The bait’s tight action allows for a faster retrieve that draws the reaction bites he’s looking for.
“If the water is really clear, I’ll go to a 100, which is a size smaller,” Christie said. “I’ll throw those two baits around (shallow cover) or under shad. If they’re breaking, I’ll throw the Spook, but if the shad are on top and they’ve already broken, then I’ll reach for a squarebill to go down a little deeper.”
Tying his squarebills on 14-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon, Christie said he focuses on retrieve speed. “I think the faster you can reel it, the more bites you’re going to get. It’s weird, but I believe that the faster you reel it, the better they’ll eat the bait. You’re going to have a better hook-up ratio.”
Jig: For flipping shallow cover, Christie depends on a 1/2-ounce War Eagle Jiu-Jigsu flipping jig with a YUM 2.75-inch Craw Chunk. Rigging this on 20-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon, Christie calls this compact form his clean-up bait.
“If I find an area that has a lot of fish, I can flip it around docks, woods and the edge of grass,” he said. “It’s an in-and-out presentation for me. If there’s a word that describes the fall, it’s ‘reaction,’ This time of year, there’s a lot of bait present, so you have to make your bait do something different for it to stand out.
“A lot of times, if I swim the jig, I’ll go to a white or shad color. But if it’s on bottom, I’ll use green pumpkin, black and blue, something like that.”
Christie offers a couple of parting points:
> Sell what they're buying: “One thing all these baits have in common, except the jig, is that they’re all shad profiles.”
> Keep an open mind: “One thing a person wants to remember is these fish move daily. They’re on bait; that’s their No. 1 priority, so you may catch them one day doing something and the next day, they may be in a totally different area and you may have to catch them doing something else.”