Pulling up to the long log just barely below the surface of the small Mobile Tensaw River Delta creek, I was surprised at having not ever seen this before, despite traveling the creek quite often over the years. As my fishing buddy Ray Britt filled me in on some of his fall bass fishing tips, he slowly positioned his Negus Skiff and handed me a long stake pole to stab in the Delta mud below. Within minutes, with frisky live shrimp at the ready, we started on a fishing (I mean catching) adventure as good as any. Time after time the small corks plunged. With fiberglass poles bent in a U-shape, we both were all smiles and grins. Bass after bass came over the side and into the live well. A finer trip would have to wait…until the next hard north wind! Except this time we went to a different creek.
Many anglers despise a hard north wind and extremely low tides on the Mobile Tensaw Delta. Not Ray Britt of Mobile. These are the days he longs for, as the low tides can reveal hidden treasure in the form of logs and submerged structure not usually seen above the surface of the creeks and rivers of the Delta. For many decades Britt has searched these Delta waterways to find ‘fish holding’ structure. Over those years Britt has built an impressive collection of sites that hold fall bass and other species, as well as a great number of fall bass fishing tips.
Tides can be very important when targeting logs and other structure. If you have too swift a tide, the bait can’t stay in the strike zone for very long.
“I like to fish the last hour of a falling tide in the Tensaw River Delta. The water seems to be the clearest at low tide and will stay relatively clear for the hour the tide starts moving back in,” Britt said. Also, the creeks that flow out of a shallow bay will leave the fish a place of sanctuary as some of the bays become mud flats on a strong north wind
When available, live shrimp are the most effective bait to fish the brackish water environment of the Mobile Tensaw Delta in fall. Before flooding rains hit in winter, the Delta is a mixture of blended saltwater and fresh water that is perfect for multiple species of fish, both salt and fresh. With these water conditions, there is also the perfect mix to support the huge numbers of shrimp moving through the Delta in fall.
When bait shops can keep up with the demand, you can pick up shrimp at a few places on the Bay. Keeping those shrimp alive will be crucial for success.
“When I’m fall bass fishing, I like to use a small ice chest to transport and keep my bait well protected. Styrofoam bait bucks work well but are really fragile. The light lids of the buckets will fly out of the boat, and the buckets will easily bust when kicked or moved around abruptly by a rogue wave in the river,” Britt said. “The ice chest is tougher and protects the shrimp, whether being pulled on the boat trailer or running on the rivers.”
Britt is also particular about his air bubbler. “I use the standard battery operated bait aerator, made by Marine Metal. A couple of things I’ve learned over the years will help with the life of the bubbler. First, I always remove the batteries from the unit after every trip. This promotes battery life and will control corrosion on the connections. Second, I take extra special care of the bubble stone at the end of the air hose. Be careful not to drop these stones, as they will crack. Once cracked, they won’t distribute the air as efficiently and your bait will suffer, “Britt explained.
If shrimp are not available due to angler demand, there is an alternative or two. Today’s lure manufacturers have gotten very meticulous in making a very lifelike shrimp lure. Using either a D.O.A. Shrimp or Vudu Shrimp will fool the fish as well. Place the bait under your cork at about 18-24 inches deep. Place the bait near the structure on the up-current side of the structure. As the bait floats along, give it some ever so subtle twitches. This will trigger hungry fish around the structure. Cork goes down…set the hook!
Finally, there will come a time when the water gets fresh and shrimp will leave the Mobile Tensaw River Delta. Although the shrimp might leave, the bass will stay close to structure especially on very low water. Britt has an answer to that as well.
“When the shrimp are gone due to fresh water or extreme cold, you can still do well using live shiners as bait. These shiners take a little more patience to fish with because the bass seem to want to position the shiner for swallowing. Snatch the bait too soon and you will miss the bass. Count down to ten and then pull a fast wrist hook set and your percentage will improve drastically,” Britt said
When it comes to tackle selection for fall bass fishing around structure in the Tensaw River Delta, Britt goes very basic.
“I normally stick to a fiberglass telescopic bream or crappie pole, lined with ten-pound monofilament. I use a very small wire hook that you might use for bream. The smaller hook allows the shrimp to swim a little more freely without a larger hook to pull around. The wire hook also allows you to pull it off the structure, as the wire hook will bend and release. Once back in, you can take a pair of needle-nose pliers to bend the hook back into a U shape,” Britt said.
“A small 1 ½ inch Styrofoam cork will work well with the live shrimp. The long slender shape allows it to be pulled through grass or over a structure. It also is easier to toss in a stiff wind and not have your line fly back in your face,” Britt said.
Britt does not confine himself to fiberglass pole only. He always brings along a ‘bass type’ rod with a plastic grub on it to thoroughly work an area.
“Bass and redfish will definitely relate to structure in the Tensaw River Delta in fall. However, after the bite starts to slow down close to structure, I take a light spinning rod to probe the surrounding area. Both bass and redfish will clobber a chartreuse curly tail grub as it swims by them. You can also toss an artificial shrimp on the grass edges of the river. Make sure to land the fake shrimp on the grass, then pull it over the edge where it will flutter down on the fall. Hungry bass will nail this offering with little hesitation,” Britt explained.
One of the most frustrating things about using live shrimp as bait is the fact that almost every fish that swims the Mobile Tensaw Delta will eat them! Sometimes while using shrimp around structure you will be annoyed as the cork often dances around, but will not go under. After a while, you pull up your live shrimp to see that most of the legs have been eaten off. Instead of letting this frustrate you, use this tip that Britt advises.
“When I get lots of nibbles, but no takedowns of the cork, I examine the underside of the shrimp. If the legs have been chewed on, I change my focus. I take one of the chewed on shrimp and cut it into small sections for bait. This usually results in nice catches of bream hanging around the structure. I call those “bonus bream,” Britt said.
The fall season brings with it some great weather, along with occasional blustery north winds. When these north winds blow water out of the Tensaw River Delta, seek out the uncovered structure, utilize our fall bass fishing tips, and harvest some ‘Delta treasure’ of your own.
See you on the water!
This article first appeared in the November 2018 print issue of Great Days Outdoors Magazine. For more great hunting and fishing content for the deep South, subscribe to Great Days Outdoors print and digital editions or click the image to download this issue.