As fall starts to transition into winter, air and water temps begin to drop. The falling temperatures have a direct impact on the whites and hybrids. A couple weeks ago when the temps were in the mid 50s it was a feeding frenzy fish were wrecking shad all over the lake, I’m pretty sure the fish were having a shad eating contest. This time of year especially here in the Midwest can be difficult on everyone including the fish one day it’s 50 degrees and sunny, the next 28 degrees and snowing. The inconsistency of the weather makes it very hard to pattern these fish, knowing what kind of water the fish should be in really helps locating them, but these fish are roamers and nothing is a sure thing.
Fall can be almost as good as Spring for targeting whites and hybrids on the fly. The water begins to cool and the fish move from the depths to start terrorizing shad in shallower water. The hot spots are typically the main lake points, old road beds and river channels, and wind blown banks. These fish are structurally oriented just a little different structure than your large and smallmouth bass. The points and wind blown banks are where we focus most of our energy. The fish are shallow enough to get to with a fly even with a floating line when they’re hugging the banks. If it’s windy enough to create a mud line fishing the lines can be productive as well. Depending on the depth of the point it may require a sink tip to get into their feeding zone. The fish can really feel the cooler weather coming on and start loading up on shad to get them through winter. Towards the end of fall the fish start transitioning in to the wintering areas.
When the water on the lakes drops into the 40s the fish really start to slow down. There’s definitely still fish to be caught but they move into deeper water making it harder to get to on the fly. Locating them can be more a challenge, but they will feed on shad all winter long. The best places to target them are in the local tailwaters and the power plant lakes. In the tailwaters I like to focus on the current breaks, eddies, and seams. Really any spot that provides and ambush point. We’re lucky enough to have some warm water power plant lakes in the area, which can provide productive fishing all winter long. The major reasons these are so productive are first the temps the water coming out of the power plant is usually in the 60s. Two the water coming out provides a current and these fish are “river fish” and love moving water. I fish sink tips 100% of the time when fishing moving water. The warm water in the power plants have the fish so confused they don’t know which way is up, it’s spring all year long.
Whites and Hybrids primary food source is shad, both gizzard and thread fin shad. Flies should resemble the baitfish. Some of my favorite are: SF minnows weighted and un-weighted, game changers, and deceivers. I said it before but I throw sink tips in the moving water 100% of the time. I want to get the fly down in the feeding zone as quick as possible. My favorite flies are the synthetic SF fiber minnows. You can trim them to match the size of baitfish without sacrificing movement. Most saltwater style baitfish patterns are very effective on these fish.
Un-Weighted SF Minnow very effective thrown on a sink tip.
Lefty’s Deceivers are another great pattern for targeting these fish.
Weighted SF Minnows are always at the top of my list. Weighted with Fish Skull Baitfish Heads.
There’s some good fishing to be had if you’re willing to get out and fight the cooler weather.