When I feed my sourdough starter and leave it out to make bread, it reaches max size in about 6 or 7 hours, then it begins to fall back. Is this the point at which I should make bread in order to get the maximum rise from my starter?
From my experience, using the starter when it is at it's peak activity will help your dough rise faster but not necessarily higher. There are a lot of factors that contribute to how much dough expands when baked including, but by no means limited to: loaf shape, docking pattern, oven temperature, and oven humidity.
Be aware that there can also be a point at which dough has risen too much and the structure and texture suffers.
I rarely care about the state of the starter dough. IMHO, it is one of the least important factors. The amount of impurities in the flour is the most important factor for my results at home. The "dirtier", the better. I get the best results by far with stone-milled organic flour from a regional producer.