November fishing at Santee Cooper can be unmatched

Guides Bobby Winters and Leroy Suggs show off some nice, slot-sized stripers caught last fall at Santee Cooper.

Action on several key species is as good as it gets.

After several months fattening up on forage, fishing for several species peaks in November on the Santee Cooper lakes. This month is the fall equivalent to the winter-to-spring transition in March when multiple species are on an aggressive bite.  

Schooling action for striped bass is typically great early and late, with the live-bait bite productive when fish are not schooling.

Guide Leroy Suggs out of Blacks Camp said this is an excellent time for schooling stripers on the surface.

“The forage is abundant during the fall, as the shad have grown considerably during the warm-weather months,” he said. “By November, huge schools of baitfish roam both lakes, and casting bucktails or jigs with plastic trailers produces excellent action on schooling fish. My personal preference is to try to get away from the big crowd of boats, because multiple boats pursuing the same school of stripers can impact our chances for larger fish.”

Suggs (910-995-1168) said stripers often school by size class, and if he hits a school of mostly smaller fish, he’ll move to another area. By letting his bucktail drop deeper before starting the retrieve, he can often hook up with larger fish, but sometimes, larger stripers are absent from some schools. 

Guide Bobby Winters said the lakes are full of stripers in the slot-limit of 23 to 25 inches, and live bait — primarily blueback herring — will produce action when stripers are not schooling.

Drop baits down

“I’ll keep one eye peeled for schooling action, but by marking forage and fish on the graph, we can fish live bait at the depth stripers are holding and continue to catch them,” he said. “I love a cloudy November morning for striper fishing.”

Winters will also be on the hunt for big catfish in November.

“At this time of the year, forage is abundant, and big fish are feeding heavily,” he said. “It’s a prime time of the year to hook a real monster cat.”

Winters (843-751-3080) said he’ll drift- fish, and depending on the wind direction, he’ll use six to eight rods. It’s not unusual in November to have multiple hookups.

“I like to fish underwater drops, ledges and high spots,” Winters said.” I prefer drifting up an underwater hill because I get more bites. We’ll typically catch fish at a steady pace, but when we drift over a big school of shad, it’s possible to have multiple hookups.”

Monster largemouth bass are realistic during November, and fat, football-shaped bass in the 5- to 7-pound class are caught on a variety of lures. Action doesn’t rival spring for numbers of top-end largemouth, but bass are usually on an aggressive bite.

Guide Inky Davis said this month is excellent for both big fish, as well as fast-paced action. Davis prefers the upperbend of Lake Marion in the fall.

“The upper end of Lake Marion has more targets than I can ever fish, and fishing back in the flooded cypress trees, working small openings and ditch runs produces great action,” he said. “These serve as travel routes and holding spots for bass during November.”

Sticking Slabs: Guide Dave Hilton shows off the kind of crappie that can be caught in November. These two slabs were caught off brush piles in Lake Masrion, a pattern that takes advantage of crappie orienting to wooden cover.

Davis (803-478-7289) said November is a prime topwater time, and he fishes buzzbaits, floating worms, topwater twitch baits and heavy tailspinners rigged for quick, long-range topwater action. He runs crankbaits in the 3- to 7-foot depth range on stump flats and points and plastic worms cast snugly around trees, logs and weedbeds.

“An isolated tree, bush, log or patch of weeds is something I always target,” he said. “These isolated targets are excellent for big largemouth.”

Crappie fishing is also productive; guide Dave Hilton said most will be orienting to woody cover along drops and ledges.

“Find woody cover in 15 to 35 feet of water and work brush, logs and stumps with live bait or jigs,” he said. “The specific depth varies with the water temperature, and usually, the crappie will be shallower early in the fall and gradually move deeper as the water cools.”

Hilton (843-870-4734) will work minnows over the top and along the edges of sunken brush, and if he doesn’t get fish quickly, he’ll find another place. Usually the crappie bite is strong during November; it’s just a matter of finding cover in the right depth.

It’s prime-time fall fishing season at Santee Cooper exciting action on multiple species of fish.

Terry Madewell
About Terry Madewell 705 Articles
Award-winning writer and photographer Terry Madewell of Ridgeway, S.C., has been an outdoors writer for more than 30 years. He has a degree in wildlife and fisheries management and has a long career as a professional wildlife biologist/natural resources manager.

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