The weather is really starting to cool down in November, and the baitfish are really starting to move. The middle of the month is really when you see them getting into creeks and ditches.
Although I’m known to throw a jig a lot — and I will always have one tied on — when bass are concentrating on shad or herring, I catch an awful lot of fish on a swimbait, in particular, a Storm 360GT Searchbait.
I love to fish a swimbait in the spring — a big swimbait when those big fish are really moving up — but a swimbait is really good in the fall when the baitfish migration gets going. You get good schooling action in September and October, and good topwater action, but you don’t get as much surface action this month, which makes a swimbait an even bigger part of my arsenal.
A lot of good swimbaits have come out on the market, all different brands. I won a BASS Tournament on Alabama’s Pickwick Lake several years ago, primarily with a swimbait, so I know they’ll catch fish better than a lot of other baits under the right circumstances.
Herring, pro blue and white ice are my favorite fall colors; the 360GT comes in 31/2-, 41/2- and 51/2-inch models. I tend to throw a 51/2 in the spring because of those big female bass; I normally use the 31/2 and 41/2s in the fall.
When I fished the BASS Elite tournaments, you couldn’t fish with an Alabama rig, but when I’m fun fishing or if I’m fishing a tournament where they’re allowed, I’ll fish an Alabama Rig with the 31/2-inch baits. I will cast the 41/2-inch baits; they’re just really good baits right out of the package. They come prerigged with a hook and a rattle in the head of the bait; I’ve caught a lot of smallmouth up north with them, and largemouth and stripers closer to home.
With the swimbait tail, you get good vibration from this bait, and the rattle in the head gives you that, too. Baits with vibration and a rattle can be hard to beat, especially if you aren’t fishing water that’s extremely clear.
I fish from mid-way to the backs of creeks in November; they can be all the way back. I’ll keep my eyes on my Humminbird electronics, and I’ll keep my eyes open; sometimes you can see baitfish if they’re close to the surface.
Swimbaits are excellent in clear water. I’ll use an Alabama rig with four of the little swimbaits when I can, but when you’re got extremely clear water, then I’ll go with the single, 41/2 bait. Bass can be a little tentative when it comes to hitting an Alabama rig when the water is really clear.
I fish an Alabama rig on a 7-foot or 7-foot-6 medium-heavy Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Carbonate rod with a 6.3-to-1 Johnny Morris baitcasting reel spooled with 40-pound braid. I’ll fish a single 41/2 bait on a 7-foot-6 medium-action rod, and the smaller bait on a 7-foot medium-action rod, same reels, spooled with 14-pound XPS fluorocarbon.
If I’ve found a school of baitfish, either on my electronics or by seeing them at or near the surface, I want to cast in and around them, even past them, count the bait down to the depth I think they’re holding, and then wind the bait back through them. A swimbait has plenty of its own action, so you don’t need to really impart a lot more.
One thing to remember is that when bass are ganging up around pods of baitfish, there’s a chance to catch a lot of fish without moving very far. That’s one thing that a swimbait — and a crankbait too — gives you: the chance to catch a lot of fish in a short amount of time.