ALTHOUGH HE’S EXPERIENCED A NUMBER of great days of fishing throughout the country in the early fall, nine-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Bill Lowen makes no bones of what he thinks about fishing this time of year down south.
“It’s typically some of the worst fishing of the year in Texas,” he said. “It doesn’t get really good again until late November. The fish are still in transition. It’s not just Texas, either. All over the country weights tend to go down.”
Rather than seeing that as an obstacle, Lowen sees it as an opportunity. He’s achieved top 20 finishes at the Sabine River and Sam Rayburn, and four checks at Amistad, so he knows the potential that Texas fisheries offer.
Unlike the spring, when fish tend to be big, fat and aggressive, when summer starts to turn to fall he just ratchets back his expectations a little bit. That doesn’t mean he won’t shoot for the win, though. In fact, this is a time of year that he feels that he has an advantage.
“I don’t think that a lot of people think of fishing shallow in Texas when the water hasn’t cooled off,” he said. “That’s why on lakes like Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn I’d look to run up the river as far as I could, looking for some type of current on creek channel edges.”
This is a situation where anglers in big fiberglass boats are often at a disadvantage, and his preference for this type of exploration was one of the reasons that he moved to an aluminum Xpress X21 Pro as his competition boat this year. At 21 feet long with a 95-inch beam, Lowen is comfortable with it on the lower end of any big Texas lake, but he also isn’t afraid to take it anywhere a bass swims.
“It drafts shallower than I can get the trolling motor to work,” he said. “It also gives me the ability to get over sand bars, rock bars and log jams. At that time of year, the lakes are usually not at full pool, so you have to be careful—it can be hazardous. But this boat allows me into areas that often hold good populations of unpressured fish.”
Once he gets into the strike zone, he’s looking for two types of areas. The first is the deep swing of a defined channel edge. The second is a place where there’s wood up on a flat adjacent to deep water.
Sometimes the fish will prefer one, and sometimes they’ll prefer the other. Often the areas he targets will be sufficiently condensed so he can either zero in on the type that’s most productive, or else pluck fish from both of them.
Because he’ll often be making a long run, and needs the boat to skip over the occasional obstacle, Lowen tends to pack his boat light. Fortunately, that’s possible because he’ll rarely be fishing anything up there over five or six feet deep
In fact, he designed the IMA Square Bill crankbait to run three feet or less, just for situations like this. Something that goes deeper will dredge up silt and sticks and other debris. Depending on water color, he’ll choose either a shad pattern or something with chartreuse in it.
If the fish won’t react to a moving bait, he’ll slow down and flip. Although his choice of a four-inch flipping tube might not surprise many weekend warriors, his other favorite bait in the headwaters is a 10-inch plastic worm. He’ll have both on deck, along with his crankbaits, and let the fish tell him which one they want.
Even though the bass might not be heavily pressured, they still may be finicky at this time of year, so Lowen depends on his Minn Kota Talons to hold him in place as he plies likely spots.
“Once you get up in places like that, you have to be able to set on a piece of cover and pick it apart,” he said. “Something like a big log jam is not something you’re going to fish effectively in one or two casts. It could take 10 or 12 or even more.”
While he doesn’t expect these environs to produce the 25- and 30-pound stringers that often win springtime tournaments on the best fisheries in Texas, he knows that he typically doesn’t need that kind of weight to win. Getting away from it all is often the best way to take everyone else’s entry fees.
Email Pete Robbins at [email protected]