If you love to bass fish, especially if you love to throw a crankbait like I do, you can’t get enough of October. It is probably the best month of the year to have a big, diving plug tied on to the end of your line if you’re a North Carolina fisherman.
Crankbaits are just about unbeatable because of the way bass are reacting to the change in seasons. They’re moving back into creeks, following big schools of baitfish, and because baitfish use creek channels as travel routes, bass are likely to be found right along the edges of those channels. Those kinds of places have always been great places to fish a crankbait, and because fish are on the move, you have to cover a lot of water. There’s nothing better to use than a crankbait in that situation.
It doesn’t matter where you fish in North Carolina this month, wood is probably the No. 1 cover on any lake, either brush piles or laydown trees or places where trees are under the water. If you find that kind of cover on a rocky bottom, that’s even better, but rocks really come into play a little later in the fall.
If you know the kinds of things you need to look for, bass are easier to pattern — at least they always have been for me. I typically start about halfway back in creeks and work toward the backs. That’s always been a pretty good strategy for me.
I’m looking first at creek-channel edges, especially in the first part of creeks. They’ll be on those drops until the end of the month when it gets cool enough for them to move up on the flats. For most of the month, it’s almost like a post-spawn fishery, because bass will get on sharp breaks. All summer they’ve been on these little secondary breaks, but now they’re going to be on the major creek drops, and no matter where you go, it’s the same way.
What I like to do is idle along the edges of creek channels and look on my electronics for baitfish and fish around brush or other obvious cover. Then, I’ll position my boat over deep water, cast shallow and retrieve my crankbait down the drop.
I like to sit in 20 feet of water and work my bait down to 15, so you’re looking for a crankbait that will run about 14 to 16 feet. Some people like to sit shallow, cast deep and retrieve their baits up to and over the lip, but I’ve had more success sitting deep and throwing shallow. One reason is, you’ll catch some times in October when fish will move up into 7 or 8 feet of water, and if I’m sitting deep and making long casts, I’ll be bringing my baits back past those fish.
You need to have the kind of equipment that lets you make real long casts, because you can cover more water with them, and the longer the cast, the deeper you can get your bait. I’ll be fishing my Lew’s David Fritts Cranking Rod, probably the 7-foot-6 model, with a Lew’s BB-1 reel spooled with 10-pound mono. Being able to cast even 6 or 7 feet farther can often make a big difference.
I like to fish outside bends, but they get fished a lot, so I’ll fish inside bends and even the straightaways where they lead into and out of the bends. Another thing I really like to fish are little bluff walls where the channel runs up against the wall. You parallel them, make your cast and wind the bait back parallel to the walls, and sometimes, you’ll catch your biggest fish off these kinds of walls.
Colors are very important in October because bass are so keyed in on shad. This is when the pearls and grays get stronger: gray shad and gray ghost and even carp. And if you’ve got a good limit of fish and needed to add a bigger one, don’t be afraid to throw something with some chartreuse on it.
One other thing to think about is the old saying that in the fall, fish like baits that fall. If I’m looking for a big fish, I’ll often fish a bait that will fall straight down: a spoon, a 1-ounce Cordell Spot, a jig — or I’ll even flutter a big spinnerbait down on them. That will often get you one big fish that can be the difference between a good day and a great day.
So, if you can tear yourself away from your deer stand this month, get on the water. October is probably my favorite month to fish, and it could be yours.