How to pick the right creek for the best action this month
I love October; there’s no way around it. I’ve probably won more tournaments in October than any other month, and the fish just seem to be set up for the kind of fishing I like to do.
The crankbait bite is usually happening, and you can catch bass on a number of different patterns. They’re normally off the bank a good ways, and that used to be a big advantage for me — before we had these TV sets for depth finders.
It might be best to divide October up into two parts: early and late. The fish change so much over those 30 days, and they are doing things so different in different places. If you’re fishing around Charlotte — Lake Wylie or Lake Norman — they’ll be doing one thing, but in the lakes up on the Virginia border — Buggs Island and Gaston — they will be doing something else.
Usually, by the first of October, fish will be getting back in the creeks real good, following the bait. I like to try and find them on medium-depth structure, but if the water conditions permit it, you can catch them up in 2 or 3 feet of water, especially by the end of the month.
Pick a creek
Before you try to catch them, you have to figure out where they’re going to be. In October, baitfish and bass will go up most of the creeks that feed a big lake, but the best creeks are going to be the ones with the most water flow. You can go in smaller creeks and catch bass, but you need to be in a big creek because of the water flow.
There are two ways to pick the right creek. The creeks on a lake that get muddy the quickest, that get the muddiest and are the last to clean up, they’ve got the most flow. On Lake Norman, that would be Davidson and Mountain creeks. On Lake Wylie, it would be the South Fork. That’s one way to choose a creek. The other way is to look at the mapping feature on your GPS, look at the back of the creek and see how wide it is in the back and how far back the map shows it going. Some of them will be just a little, bitty line, but some of them will look like a small river. Those are the ones to fish.
Bait is the deal
Once you’re in a creek, you have to find the bait. Where there’s a lot of bait, there’s a lot of fish. You hear people say that where there’s a lot of bait, it’s hard to catch fish. That’s wrong. Where there’s a lot of bait, there’s also a lot of bass, and they’ll bite.
Early in October, I’ll generally go back about a fourth of the way into a creek, and I’ll fish back to about mid-way back. Later in October, I’ll start halfway back and fish all the way to the back. That’s pretty much the deal on these places. There will always be a few fish on the main lake or in the river, but the biggest concentrations are going to be back in the creeks, and the better fish will get back there.
When you have that taken care of, it’s time to get specific. I really like to fish roadbeds, anything with a sharp break. They get on creek channels, and they’ll get on wood. It doesn’t matter what kind of wood it is — brush or stumps — but wood is your No. 1 cover. They will really get on brush in September and October, and a lot of times, isolated stumps. Places there’s one here and one there, not a big stump field, will hold really big fish.
Fish like those big drops; they like to be on edges. One of my favorite places to fish on Buggs Island is a place where, when the water is down a couple of feet — like it gets in the fall — I can barely see the tops of the stumps. But if I turn my boat around, I’ll be sitting in 20 feet of water. That place has everything they like in the fall: a sharp drop, and wood.
Now, I am going to pick up a crankbait first and fish it a majority of the time, because the bass will be biting it. The first of the month, you can catch ‘em on a Berkley Dredger 14.5, 17.5 or 20.5. By the end of the month, you don’t need anything deeper than the 14.5, and the Frittsides, a flat-sided bait, that will really come into play. It’s got that hard roll, which is good in the fall, especially when you get that milky color when the lake is turning over.
Colors? Two of the best are brown/yellow and what we call oatmeal cream pie. It used to be called carp color.
So, if you can wait until November to start climbing into your deer stand, October is a great month to stay on the lake and catch some nice bass. They’ll be hungry and biting, and they won’t be tough to find.
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