November bass fishing can be as good as spring
Just about every bass fisherman you talk with will point to the spring as their favorite time to fish, but I can make a pretty good argument for November.
Late fall is probably my favorite time to be out on the water — certainly one of my favorites. You’ve got all the colorful leaves, and you don’t have a lot of recreational boat traffic; most people have put their jet skis in dry storage.
And the fishing is good.
The very beginning of fall, at the end of September, that can be one of our toughest times to fish, but when you get into late October and November, the water temperature has cooled, but it’s not cold enough to keep you off the water. The water temperature is in the 60s, maybe up to 70, and because fish are cold-blooded, they’re very active at those temperatures. Also, on a lot of our Carolina lakes, the water level will be a little lower, so you’ll have good water clarity, and you don’t have to worry about having to fish in extremely dirty water like you have to in the spring.
The hunt begins
Bass will be really keyed in on baitfish, and when I start back into a creek — I’m going to avoid the main lake — I’m probably not going to put my trolling motor down until I see baitfish on my Humminbird graph.
I’ll start at the mouth of a creek and idle back for five or 10 minutes, from the mouth to the middle to the back. If I don’t see baitfish, I’ll pick up and go to the next creek. They might be around the mouth; they might be around the middle; they might be all the way back.
What this does is reduce the amount of time you waste looking for fish. This is especially important if you are just a weekend fisherman with limited time. You don’t want to spend hours fishing and not catching. You want to find the bait, because that’s where the bass will almost always be this month.
When I do see baitfish, either on my depth finder or visually, on the surface, I’ll start fishing, and the first thing I’ll throw is a square-billed crankbait, something like a Rapala BX Brat, in a shad color.
What I’ll be looking for will be the first shallow target I see, either vegetation, wood or rock. Wood could be willow trees, brush, blowdowns, stumps, even boat docks. I can cover a lot of water with that crankbait to try and get a pattern started; you have to get your first bite or two before you can really determine which pattern the bass will be in.
In November in the Carolinas, most of the fish are going to be in 1 to 6 feet of water, and that square-bill will cover those depths very well. It will come through cover; it rides over the cover, and that wide wobble also helps it kick over cover. The other thing is, the middle of the bait is balsa wood — the outside is hard plastic — so if you jam it into something, just stop winding, and it will float up.
I’ll fish a BX Rap on a 7-foot, medium-action Bass Pro Shops Carbonlite rod with a Johnny Morris signature series reel spooled with 14-pound XPS fluorocarbon.
The other reason I start shallow in November is I want to eliminate the easy stuff first. It takes longer offshore to find gangs of fish, but if they’re shallow, you’ll know it immediately. You spend less time searching and more time fishing.
So, when you do get a bite on the crankbait, you need to take a minute and think about where that fish came from. Stop for at least 30 seconds and think about whether that fish came off wood, rock or some kind of vegetation; remember, you’re only casting to targets. And how deep was that fish?
Then, you can go and look for other places like that. You catch another fish on that kind of spot, and you’re getting a pattern developed. Once that starts to work, you can do some other things.
If I go to a place where I think I should catch a fish, and I don’t get a bite on the crankbait, I’ll pick up a Buckeye mop jig and work that cover thoroughly. But I won’t start with a jig. I love to fish a jig as much as anybody, but I won’t start with one, because you can spend way too much time fishing it, looking for fish. But if I’m on a place where I think the fish should be, I’ll pick that place apart.
So, hopefully you killed that big buck back in September when the fishing wasn’t too good, so plan to spend plenty of time on the water this month, looking around for a big, green trophy. The fishing should be great, and if you follow this advice, it might even turn out easy.