October is one of my favorite months. Like a lot of people, I love to deer hunt, and it really gets good this month. But to me, October is also one of the best months to catch bass on a crankbait.
My favorite times to fish a crankbait are in the prespawn and immediate post-spawn, and usually by mid- to late summer, most fishermen have put away their crankbaits and picked up topwaters and plastic worms. They need to pick them up in the fall, because the shad start migrating back into the creeks, coves, pockets and ditches, and it’s an excellent time to catch fish at mid-depths, cranking eight to 10 feet deep.
October is really when the shad first start to migrate back into these places pretty good, and the bass follow them. I like to start by fishing the first big point inside the mouth of creek and working my way back. I look for any little irregularity in the contour, any little ditch or hump — anything fish will hold onto or use as an ambush point.
I’ll have a Mop Jig tied on, and maybe a big Trigger-X worm, but I do my searching with a crankbait, and I catch most of my fish on one.
This is where I get back to deer hunting. Deer and bass are a lot alike, which is probably why I like them both so much. What they’re interested in is food and cover. They’re looking for the best cover and the best places to get some good food.
When I talk to people about being able to find bass on strange waters, with only a couple of days of practice, I tell them that it’s all about finding the best available cover. That depends a lot on the lake you’re fishing. At Santee, that could be cypress trees and knees; at Murray, that could be boat docks or brush piles. There is some grass in Clarks Hill, so it might be a grassy point there.
I want to key in the best cover, in the right kinds of areas, to catch bass. I look for the shad moving into a creek and go for that cover. A big brush pile the size of my pickup truck would be a great place to find bass in the fall, but if there’s not any of those around, they’ll find some place else. You’ve just got to be able to evaluate the situation.
One thing about fall bass is, they’ll move back into the creeks in groups, in waves — that depends on the lake and how the shad and herring move. I’ll keep my Evinrude in the water and cruise a good bit, looking for signs of baitfish near the surface or on my Humminbird depth finder. When I find baitfish, that’s where I’ll stop and really start to search.
There could be there or four bass on a stump on a point, or you might find a whole school, 20 or 30 fish. The key to having the best day you can have is, whenever you catch a bass on a crankbait, stay on that spot and make multiple casts with a crankbait, then maybe a jig and a big worm. Repeated casts is the key, because when you catch one fish in the fall, he’s not going to be in there by himself; he’ll have some friends with him. So many people will catch a fish off a spot, then move on, but staying on that spot for a while will probably get you a few more fish.
Since I’m targeting fish in that 8- to 10-foot depth range, I’m going to be fishing Rapala DT-6 and DT-10 crankbaits, which will get the job done. In the spring, I like fishing crankbaits in crawfish colors and patterns. In the fall, it’s shad and herring patterns. I like the color they call Helsinki shad, and I like olive green, and I like Caribbean shad, which is a blueback herring with a little chartreuse.
I fish these baits on a 7-foot, medium-action All-Star cranking rod, with a Pfleuger Patriarch reel and 10- to 12-pound Trilene 100-Percent Fluorocarbon. The 7-foot rod is better for small to medium-sized crankbaits like these. If I was throwing the bigger DT-16 or DT-20 baits and I needed a really long cast, I might go with a longer rod, but with smaller crankbaits, the 7-foot rod is better. If I’ve got to cast to some targets — maybe under a dock or under some overhanging limbs — I might drop down to a 6- or a 6-foot-6 cranking rod.
Whatever you use, make sure you get out on the water this month and put it to good use. I know it’s deer season, and the rut is approaching, but the bass fishing is so good. It’s hard to put down your rifle or your rod. I have an idea: how ’bout fishing in the morning and deer-hunting in the afternoon, or vice versa?