Southern Fishing for Bass, Crappie, and Catfish in September

Tips for Fishing Busy Lakes in the Still-Warm Water

Photo © Ken Schultz

September can be a mean month for anglers, especially southern anglers. With the kids back in school and the lakes calming down from the activity of summer skiers, personal watercraft users, speedboaters, and other powerboat users, you would think the fish would be less wary and more likely to bite. But lake temperatures are still hot and the oxygen is low since there is usually little rain.

By the end of the month things will be improving, even in Georgia. More northern lakes may be a month ahead of the ones I fish. If so, be grateful for your luck, go fishing often and enjoy. Southern anglers may wish they could swap places this time of year but that will change when northern waters get solid on top.

Bass Fishing In September

Wherever you are, bass go through typical patterns as lakes cool. In some lakes, the lack of oxygen causes bass to suspend over deep water until the lake starts to cool. They will not feed much except at night, unless they are chasing shad on top.

To catch these bass, and the white bass and hybrid stripers that run with them, look for breaking fish on the surface late in the afternoon or early in the morning. These fish are chasing schools of baitfish. Once you find this activity, you can expect these fish to return to the same spots every day to feed.

Look for schooling fish on long shallow points and around islands and humps. The shallower sections provide a better chance for predators to catch their food, as they have less water to run in. It compresses the schools of baitfish (primarily shad) and makes them easier to catch.

Try a small topwater plug, popping cork with fly attached, or small inline spinner on a spinning reel. A crappie jig also works well if the shad are small threadfins. Cast them on light line and enjoy the fight.

Crappie Fishing In September

Crappie stay in the same places that they've been in all summer but will move a little shallower as the water cools. Use small minnows and jigs over standing trees in deep water and around bridge pilings. You can often spot them under the schools of shad they feed on with a good sonar unit. Fish right at the top of the school; crappie don't like to go deeper to feed but they will come up.

Catfish in September

Catfish can be caught during September since they like the hot water. One tactic is to bait up a likely spot with dog food, soured wheat, or sinking catfish food (stink baits) in about 12 feet of water. Then go back and catch them on worms, liver, minnows, or commercially made catfish bait.

October is much better fishing in the south but the only thing you can do wrong in September is stay home. Even if the fish don't bite very well, you can enjoy the peace and quiet of a lake as it calms down after a summer of hard use.

This article was updated and revised by our freshwater fishing expert Ken Schultz