October is one of my favorite months to catch bass on a crankbait in reservoirs around North Carolina. The fish are moving back into creeks, following baitfish, they relate to creek channels and they’ll get ganged up, so if you find a good spot, you can get well in a hurry.
But this fall, I look for October to fish a lot different. Everybody who knows anything about bass fishing knows that the weather this year has changed everything around from what’s normal. For all I know, the way this year has gone, it might be snowing by October.
Fish have been shallow all year. At High Rock and Buggs Island, they’ve stayed in the bushes. Everywhere around the country I’ve fished in tournaments, where the weather’s been normal, the fishing has been normal. In the East and the South, it’s been an extremely different year.
Right now, most of the lakes are really full, when they should be down a little bit. Most of the time, I start out looking for fish in eight to 10 feet of water. This year, I think they’re going to be three to six feet deep. I think fish are going to push back shallow this month, because of the conditions. A spinnerbait might really come into play, or a shallow-running crankbait. We usually have a couple of good weeks of topwater fishing; that may stretch out to three or four weeks.
I think you just have to play it by ear and watch the weather. Shoot, it was the last week of August before we got a stretch of three or four days in a row without rain; that’s how wet it’s been. And because of all the water we’ve had, and because it’s never really gotten real hot this summer — I can’t remember too many days in the 90s — I don’t know if there will be a fall turnover in a lot of our lakes. I don’t know if it got hot enough, or if there was so much water flowing in, that any of our lakes actually stratified and set up a thermocline this year. If they didn’t, there won’t be a turnover, so at least we won’t have to worry about that.
October is usually the time to get out and fish places along the creek channels, looking for bass to be on rocks, brush or a combination of both along the channel. Normally, I concentrate on the channels, on little rocky points with wood, rocky banks with laydowns.
The first of the month, they might still be in 10 to 12 feet of water, but mostly, I think they’re gonna be in three to six feet of water. In a normal year, I’d get out and look for creek-channel banks where I could be in seven or eight feet of water, throwing to the bank. This year, maybe not. If you fish anywhere in North Carolina, it’s probably a good bet to go half- to three-quarters of the way back in a creek and find a steep bank. Start fishing and try to figure out how deep they are, what kind of bait they want and what color.
When the water is real high, a lot of lakes will fish like ponds. There will be a real good topwater bite on a buzzbait, a Pop-R or a Zara Spook, lures like that. Those are probably baits that will win a lot of local tournaments this fall, especially if the weather cools down fast.
I think the fish will go back farther in a creek than they normally do, because the water has been up. Normally, they won’t go back into super-shallow water in the fall, but when the water’s been up like it has all year, I feel like they’ll move shallower.
I think your major creeks that usually hold fish in the fall will be good — at High Rock, Crane and Swearing; at Buggs Island, Nutbush, Grassy and Bluestone; at Wylie, Mill and Crowders; maybe at Gaston, Poplar and Pea Hill. But I think some of the smaller, no-name creeks will be good, some of the bigger, pocket-type creeks that normally don’t have a lot of flow. Those creeks might be better, having all that flow. More shad will be back there, and more bass will be in there, and there will be less pressure in there than in the bigger creeks. I think some tournaments could be won in places like that, because there will be a lot of fish in places where there usually aren’t lots of fish.
I’m going to fish topwaters, spinnerbaits and shallow-running crankbaits, and if I can’t get bites on those baits and have to go to a soft-plastic, I’m gonna fish a Berkley Chigger Craw. I’ll throw it a lot on a Texas-rig or Carolina-rig.
But until it really gets cold, I can’t see October fishing like October usually fishes. It could be a big challenge; I hope we’re all up to it.