By Brad Wiegmann

Fishing has never been any better than it was the past couple months. Bass were stacked up in brushpiles in 25 feet of water and biting a 10-inch worm every time you dragged it through.

Today, though? Everything’s different.

The days are cooler and shorter, the surface water temperature is dropping, and the biggie – the defined thermocline you observed on electronics just days ago is missing from the screen. You’re experiencing the fall turnover, which occurs when the water column is mixing and water temperatures are the same on the surface as they are at 20 feet.

Before a lake can go through fall turnover it has to develop a thermocline. Thermocline begins developing in the spring as water temperatures warm up. Once summer arrives, a smaller middle layer separates this top layer of less-dense warm water. The lower colder layer is dense and normally void of oxygen. This middle layer acts as a barrier (the thermocline), where it separates the top warmer layer and the cold bottom layer.

turnoverFall turnover occurs when the surface water cools down and begins to mix with the deeper water. Once both water layers are the same temperature, you’ll see what anglers call the fall turnover. This is often the time when many anglers trade rods for rifles and deer hunt instead, but you can still catch fish during this turbulent period.

Visual tips that the turnover is starting include the disappearance of the thermocline from your electronics and the presence of foam on the surface, especially on windy banks.

I guide anglers on Beaver Lake in Arkansas, an Ozark highland reservoir that traditionally sees the turnover in late September or early October. Water quality is poor during this time as the lower oxygen-deprived layer mixes with the oxygen-rich upper layer. In some situations fish kills can occur, but it's uncommon.  

For anglers, fall turnover is an unwelcomed guest. It can be the toughest fishing of the year. Here today, gone the next happens as fall turnover moves fish and makes them hard to catch.

It’s definitely tough during the turnover, however, you can still catch fish. It all starts with being aware of the areas of the lake currently feeling the most-extreme affects of the turnover. If the area you are fishing shows signs of turning over and the fish are not biting, go somewhere else. Pretty simple tip.

You also need to change tactics. Bass can be almost anywhere now, so you may decide to fish a bait that is versatile enough to fish shallow or deep, such as a spinnerbait.

I always focus my efforts on main lake points while the lake is turning over. Main lake points are gateways in the path toward the backs of creeks, where bass are moving to feed up on shad. The best points are near the main river channel.

If all else fails, go shallow with topwater lures. Eccentric as it sounds, some bass will be cruising the shallows. They aren't really feeding, but moving into the cooler, oxygen-rich water.
jig
As for lures, you’d better take all of your boxes with you, because you may find bass anywhere from the surface to the bottom. And, they’re a little psychotic during the turnover. One minute they’re blowing up in schools next to your boat and the next minute they’re gone.

For schooling bass, rig up rods with Heddon's One Knocker Spook or a Heddon Chug'n Spook Jr. in shad patterns like Foxy Shad, G-Finish Foxy Shad or a transparent Pearl Melon if the water is still relatively clear.

Once the school goes down, try a lipless crankbait like the XCalibur Xr50 in shad patterns where the school came up. If you can find the fish on your sonar, vertical jig them with a Cordell C.C. Spoon.

Don’t neglect boat docks, especially ones on the main lake or near the mouth of a long cove or creek. Skip a BOOYAH Pro Boo Bug with a YUM Craw Chunk in shad colors or crawdad patterns, especially on the shady sides.  

I know I’m skipping around and mentioning lots of different types of lures and tactics, but during the turnover you can see success on almost anything if you hit it just right. Some of my best catches during this period have come on Fat Free Shads fished through deep brushpiles.

Catching fall turnover bass can be done. An angler just has to make the right adjust in locations and lures to be successful. To do that, you just have to get out there and use your own fishing expertise to dial up the right tactic.