I have never been shy about how much I love bass fishing in October. For a guy who loves to tie a crankbait on the end of his line, I can’t imagine a better time to be on a lake than the weeks leading up to Halloween.
For one thing, the lakes are starting to empty. Lots of fishermen are in deer stands. I can remember fishing at Buggs Island, and I’d hear dogs running and hear people shooting, and there was nobody fishing.
Bass are hungry, getting ready for winter, they’re following baitfish back into creeks, and they’re readily chasing moving baits. That’s where the crankbait comes in, although swimming a jig and even fishing a topwater bait can be a great October tactic.
I’ll be looking for three things when I put my trolling motor down this month: rocks, wooden cover and sharp drops. Bass really like to get on rocks and wood in October, and if you can find a combination of the two, you’re in business. For years, when we put in brush piles at places like Buggs Island and High Rock, we’d look for hardbottom areas — you can see them on your depthfinder — and drop our brush there.
Two good examples of the kind of places you’re looking for are the underwater railroad trestle in Abbotts Creek on High Rock. You’ve got rock on top, brush all over it, and at the end, there are wooden poles driven into the ground. The railroad trestle across Nutbush Creek at Buggs Island has the same characteristics, but it’s in much deeper water.
In October, I’ve probably won more tournaments in 7 to 15 feet of water, but by the end of October, they’ll all be up in 10 feet of water or less. There’s really a big change through the month, at least 5 degrees in water temperature, and you’ll have the lake turnover some time during the month, and the water will get milky for a week or so.
You will have some bass that live on the main lake all the time, but even they will go up in short creeks in the fall. I usually start halfway back in a creek and start looking for fish on sharp drops. Like March, this is a time when you’d love to be able to position your boat over 20 feet of water and throw into about 5 feet. Bass want to be able to move up and down quickly.
You want to know you’re fishing around plenty of baitfish; they’ve already moved back, and they’re on the move all the time. I can remember fishing Buggs Island a number of times, getting up in a creek with no sign of baitfish, then you go around a little corner and there’s so much bait that you can’t read your depthfinder. You’d think with that much bait, you’d never get a bite on your lure, but they will pick it out as something different.
One thing I have noticed is that there will be certain areas in a lake where the fish will be biting the best, and you have to find it. At Buggs Island, you can generally divide the lake into three sections; they’ll be biting best in one of those sections. I can remember Octobers when if you ever left Nutbush Creek, you were an idiot, and other Octobers, if you stayed in Nutbush, you were an idiot. At High Rock, you divide the lake left (west) and right (east). One side or other will have the best bite at any time. They’ll be biting all over, but the best bite will be on one side or the other.
Once you’ve found the right rock and wood on a sharp drop, when you’ve gotten in an area with plenty of baitfish, it’s just a matter of catching them. One thing that matters a lot to a crankbait fisherman is finding out whether the bass want a bait with a tight wobble or a wide wobble. In the spring, bass usually like a tight wobble like you get from a Berkley Dredger. In the fall, I usually start with a bait that really wobbles and pushes a lot of water like a Berkley Digger; it can be spectacular around aggressive fish, and you can fish it around stumps and brush piles because it’s basically weedless.
In the fall, you can go with about three or four basic colors: Honey Shad, Oatmeal Cream Pie and Spicy Mustard are always good fall colors.
Because I often need to make really long casts, I’ll fish crankbaits in October on a 7-foot or 7-foot-6 Lew’s David Fritts Perfect Crankbait Rod, and I’ll pair it with a Lew’s BB1 reel with the 5-to-1 retrieve ratio. That’s still the ideal wind-back reel; it gets back only 21 inches per turn of the handle.
One thing about October; you don’t have to have light line to catch fish like you do in summer. You can stay with a 10-pound test diameter line like Sensation and start there, and you’ll still get all the action you’re supposed to get out of your bait. Another option is the new braid that Berkley has out, X9. It throws great, and you can fish the 30-pound test braid and still have the diameter of 10-pound mono.
If you’re fishing around a lot of cover and don’t feel comfortable fishing 10-pound test, you can move up to 12-pound in the fall and still get everything you want to out of your baits.
So if you love to fish for bass, October is for you. Even if you love to deer hunt, put your gun or bow down for a day or two and get out of the woods. Of course, if you could fish a different lake from the one I’m fishing, I’d appreciate it. I love to have all those hungry bass to myself.