Golfers on the pro tour call Saturday “moving day” because it’s the day you’d better make a move if you want to contend for the tournament title. Down here in South Carolina, September is the “moving month” when baitfish and bass start to move from summer to fall.
The water temperature starts cooling off in our lakes this month, and the fish begin to get active again, following shad and blueback herring back into creeks. You can get some schooling action, some good topwater action – just make sure you get around some bait.
For me, one thing that makes September a good month is because fishing is so tough in July and August, when the shad and herring are suspending over deep water, and the bass are hard to catch, because they’re lethargic, they’re not relating to cover and they’re moving. You might catch a 4-pounder one day and think you’ve got it figured out, and you go back the next day and they’re gone – it’s hit-and-miss like that.
But when the days start getting shorter and the nights cooler, the water temperature starts to drop and the bait starts to move into the shallows. It’s a good time to start paying real attention to your electronics.
Typically the shad and herring with move up from 50 feet of water to 30 feet or even 10 feet, and they move to the mouth of creeks. They won’t go back in the creeks until the water temperature really starts to cool of later in the month, but September is a month when bait and bass transition out of deep water in the main lake or main river and head to the creeks.
Once you locate baitfish, you need to pay attention to where they are in the water column. Shad will sometimes get right on the surface, which can lead to some really, really good topwater fishing. Herring won’t go all the way to the top; you’ll usually find them 10 or 15 feet deep, maybe suspended over 20 or 25 feet of water.
Fishermen usually don’t like to try and catch suspended bass, but when you’ve got fish suspended that close to the surface, it’s much easier to get different baits to them, and it’s much easier to call them up to the surface. That’s just a function of having fish 10 feet below the surface instead of 30.
There are two or three ways to catch bass when you’ve found them suspended, but fairly shallow, around baitfish. First, you can rip a crankbait through them. One thing you really need to know is how deep your crankbait will run; that’s one reason I like fishing Rapala’s DT system baits. If I’ve got bass suspended around bait 10 feet deep, I know I can get a DT-10 right in their strike zone.
You can catch them on a swimbait – count it down to them and fish it back through them. And you can Texas-rig a little worm on a light weight so it will fall slowly down to the depth you want. I like to fish a Trigger-X Slop Hopper swimbait or a little Trigger-X Flutter worm. Pay attention to the depth you find the baitfish, pay attention to your electronics, and get your baits down to the right depth.
One thing to look for is brush piles, because when fish move to the mouth of creeks, there are usually a lot of brush piles, so you start having a lot more options that bass and baitfish will be around and begin to relate to. They might not actually be in the brush, but they could be suspended around it. October is when most bass start to relate to the bottom and the cover on it.
A shortcut you can take when you get out there this month and start looking for bait and fish is to go to the creeks that the most fish use year-in and year-out. You understand that on most of our reservoirs, there will be one or two creeks that the baitfish and bass use the most in the fall. I think it’s because some creeks in a lake’s watershed are just more fertile than others; the baitfish will go up those creeks, and the bass will follow them. If you don’t know, ask a few questions about where most of the tournaments are won on that lake in the fall. One creek will usually stand out as the hot creek. That’s the creek mouth you check first this month.
So get back on the water this month. Don’t spend every day in the deer stand. And find the bait and the bass.