Find the bait, find the bass

Crankbaits are productive lures for bass this time of year. (Photo by Dan Kibler)

I really love getting on some of our lakes and rivers in the Carolinas in October. The weather is usually great, the fishing is usually great, and you don’t have to battle all that boat traffic you see in the late spring and summer.

The big key to catching bass in October – and it’s a good time to catch a lot of fish, even if it isn’t a great time to catch your personal best – is finding baitfish. Bass are focusing on shad and herring a lot. So you can pattern them really well.

I tend to look for threadfin shad over herring in October. They’re easier to locate, back in the creeks, and usually there are bunches of them. I don’t need my electronics to find them. You can see them on top with your eyes. If you’re in the right place, pods of shad should be everywhere. If there aren’t any shad, move.

One of the biggest things a great tournament angler can do is cover a lot of water in a short amount of time. They know that if the bait isn’t there, then the bass aren’t there, and they leave.

On the one hand, having lots of shad around is good, because where there are pods of shad, there will be bass. But on the other hand, if there are pods of shad, that means there’s a lot for bass to eat besides your lures. That makes finding a bait that fish will react to very important.

The Rapala Skitter V is a good topwater lure to use in the fall.

Topwater tips

I love to fish topwater baits; they are some of my favorite baits ever to catch bass. I didn’t always get to use them much in tournament situations, but I love catching bass on top. And this is a great time of year to tie on a buzzbait, a walking bait or a popper. 

I usually have all three baits tied on, and I’ll fish them throughout the day, because topwaters make noise and create movement on top of the water. Fish that are not necessarily hungry can be competitive, and if they think other fish are feeding at the surface, they may come up to investigate.

My favorite walking bait is a Rapala Skitter V. My favorite popping bait is an Arashi Cover Pop. I will throw them on 20-pound Suffix braid with a 10- to 12-pound leader of Suffix mono.

Rapala’s OG Slim deflects off cover nicely.

Crank ‘em up

The other thing I really like to do in October is fish a crankbait. They will get fish to bite when they’re not necessarily hungry. I like to fish a Rapala DT-6 and an OG Slim. The DT-6 is a round bait with good vibration, a very unique thump. The OG Slim is a flat bait with a totally different thump and vibration. It will deflect off cover in a totally different way than a DT-6. 

I’ve really begun to like the little version of the OG Slim, an OG Slim Tiny. I fish crankbaits in baitfish colors, shad colors. I like to fish the herring color, and a color that Rapala calls “Big Shad.” I’ll fish the DT-6 on a 7-foot Lew’s cranking rod with a Lew’s BB-1 reel with a 6-to-1 or 7-to-1 retrieve ratio. I’ll fish the OG Slims on a 6½-foot Lew’s cranking rod and the same reel.

Key on cover

I said earlier that bass are reasonably easy to pattern in October. That’s true – if you can find what kind of cover they’re relating to. Fishing around drops and contours is not as important in October – nothing like it is in the spring – because they’re concentrating on following bait. And a lot of the creeks the bait is getting in are silted in — that’s why they’re back there. 

Cover is the key. They will get on rock, hardbottom, wood or vegetation. You just have to throw at all types of cover and figure out what they’re on. Once you find them, it’s reasonably easy to duplicate those kinds of spots. And you can develop a milk run between spots that are very much alike. The only thing is, depending on the creek you’re fishing, they might be a mile from the back or all the way to the back.

The only drawback from October bass fishing is that it’s not a time of year when fish are ganged up. This isn’t May or June when you can catch 15 or 20 in a row on one spot. It’s going to be one or two here and one or two there. But when you have them dialed in, it can make for great fishing.

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About Davy Hite 163 Articles
Davy Hite is a 40-year-old native of Saluda, S.C., who now resides in Ninety Six, S.C. He has fished professionally since 1993, when he qualified for his first Bassmasters Classic. He was the BASS Angler of the Year in 1997 and 2002, and he has won the 1999 Bassmasters Classic and the 1998 FLW Tour Championship. He is sponsored by Triton boats, Evinrude outboards, All-Star rods, Pfleuger reels, Pure Fishing (Berkeley), Owner hooks and Solar-Bat sunglasses.

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