If fewer bass fishermen were deer hunters, October would be a more popular month on the water. It really is one of the better months to catch bass, because fish are starting to move up a little, they’re easy to pattern and you can catch ’em a lot of different ways.
When the water temperature starts to drop in the fall, fish realize winter is around the corner, and they start to feed up. They’ll be feeding in the creeks, on the main lake, some deep and some shallow.
Obviously, I think a crankbait is the best tool to catch them. For one thing, you have to find them, so you’re covering a lot of water, and that’s when a crankbait shines. Once you find one or two, you can start to develop a pattern. Say you catch a fish on a row of stumps on a shallow flat close to a creek-channel bend, you can just about bank on catching a bass anywhere you can find those same features together.
Bass will be anywhere from three to 15 feet deep, depending on the lake you’re fishing. My favorite technique is to try and find fish about 10 feet deep with a Rapala DT-10. I’ve caught ’em on a worm or a jig, but a crankbait is my favorite.
A couple of things to consider: October is when most lakes usually go through what’s called “turning over.” During hot weather, the water toward the surface is warmer, lighter and has more dissolved oxygen. As the water cools in the fall, the surface water becomes heavier, and when it gets heavy enough, it sinks to the bottom, mixing with the water that’s been down deep. What you get is a lot of murky-looking, mixed-up water. And that’s what you want to avoid. Look for the cleanest water you can find and fish it. The murky water won’t have as much oxygen, and the bass will be running from it.
Second, bass are following baitfish. Shad start moving back into the creeks early in the fall, and the bass will be right behind them. Creek channels are the highways they use. Find big concentrations of shad halfway back in a creek, and you can be sure some hungry bass will be close by.
What you need to find out is where along the creek channels bass are feeding, because even though bass get shallow, they’re going to be close to deeper water. Here are a couple of things I look for:
• Submerged roadbeds can be very good spots. They usually run perpendicular to creek channels, and they’re ways for bass to move back and forth between shallow and deep water.
• Stump rows are great in the fall. When lakes are cleared before they’re impounded, it’s more difficult for the guys who do all the timber-cutting and hauling to get the stumps out that are closest to the creek channels. Bass will hold on those stumps and feed.
• Bass will hold on places where the bottom is solid, especially if it’s rock. And if you can find brushpiles along a rocky bottom, that’s even better. That may be the best fall pattern I’ve fished.
When you find the right kind of cover, you can find a lot of fish. You’ll find them ganged up. Where you might usually catch one fish, you can have a shot at two or three.
With bass concentrating so much on shad, I’ve found a handful of colors that really work well. I fish chartreuse/brown, pearl/gray shad and brown/bone. Those are the three colors you need; if they don’t bite them, they’re not biting a crankbait.
Not every lake fishes the same way. Each has its own personality. At Lake Gaston, you’ll get a lot of fish around docks. Fish there will get real shallow, and they’ll hang around that grass. They’ll be close to an edge. On Lake Wylie, they’ll be back up the creeks real good, on breaks. High Rock is the same way; they’ll go back in creeks, and they’ll get on docks real good. Learn each lake’s particulars.
Wherever you fish, get out there this month. Tie on a couple of crankbaits, turn on your depthfinder and keep your eyes open for baitfish. And have a ball.
David Fritts is a 53-year-old pro bass fisherman from Lexington. He won the 1993 Bassmasters Classic champion and the 1997 FLW Tour Championship, and he was the 1994 BASS Angler of the Year. He is sponsored by Tums, Ranger boats, Evinrude outboards, Rapala, VMC hooks, Zoom, American RodSmiths and Bass Pro Shops.