November used to be one of my favorite months to fish – before I started deer hunting. We’d get ready and say, “We’re going to the lake and there isn’t going to be anybody around because they’re all deer hunting.”
Now, I’m one of those deer hunters. But November hasn’t changed, and the reasons I loved to fish before Thanksgiving haven’t changed. Bass are aggressive, and our lakes and rivers are generally empty of any other fishermen or recreational boat traffic. Everybody is in a deer stand, especially on the weekends.
I have had some great days fishing in November. In the Carolinas, November can vary from year to year, but basically, fish are going to be 10 feet deep or less, and they’re going to be holding on rocks and hard bottoms. The other thing is, you’re going to want to concentrate on lakes with clearer water. Lake Norman is really good in November, High Rock is not as good. Lake Wylie and the other lakes on the Catawba chain are good. Stick to clear-water lakes as the water cools in November.
Typically, you are going to want to fish places where deep water is close to the bank. Although fish will be shallow, they won’t be far from deep water. If you can find a place where you’re sitting in 20 or 30 feet of water and casting to the bank, that’s good. Sometimes, it’s exactly like early March.
At Buggs Island, one of my favorite creeks to fish in November was Panhandle. It’s narrow, with a lot of steep banks because it’s so narrow, and no long flats. It’s a perfect November creek.
Bank on it
In November, fish start to get more vertically oriented. Bluff banks can be great, but I know we don’t have that many lakes in the Carolinas with bluff banks. I know of a couple at High Rock, my home lake – near the dam and in Flat Swamp Creek. If you can find a bluff bank, fish it. If you can’t, look for a creek-channel bank back up in a creek. In the Carolinas, a lot of bass will overwinter back in the creeks, and they’ll get back there in November.
Riprap will also be big in November, really, any rocky banks. They will be on little rocky corners, on banks with white rocks, shale or pea gravel. There are little bitty things you can key on; pay attention to them. They will really pattern well. If they’re biting, you can cover a lot of water and fish places that match, and you’ll catch ‘em.
If you find a good spot where shallow and deep water are close by, they’re not going to be on the drop. They’ll be up shallow, on the bottom, in 10 feet of water or less.
Now, yeah, it sounds like a brag, but a Berkley Frittside will kill ‘em in November. The Frittside No. 9 will be the best. That bait will run as deep as you’ll ever have to fish. A Frittside 5 Biggun will be good. I think it’s that lazy shad action that really gets them. Colors that will be good are Honey Shad, Kentucky Blue, Hot Mustard and Ghost Morning Dawn, which is kind of a clear bait.
Vary your speed
Most of the time, bass will be aggressive enough that a medium to fast retrieve will work. If it gets cold, you may have to pull the bait along with your rod tip, the way we used to fish a Shad Rap. You just have to see how the fish are acting. Now one thing, a lot of times, you’ll have to make multiple casts from different angles to a single stump or a rock to get a bite, and that’s fine.
I’ll fish these baits on a 6-foot-8 Lew’s David Fritts cranking rod with a BB1N Pro with a 6.2-to-1 retrieve ratio. That’s perfect for throwing that Frittside 5 Biggun, and you can be a lot more accurate than you’ll be able to be when you’re throwing even a 7-foot rod.
One thing is important: don’t overwind. If you start hooking and losing fish, you need to slow down your wind a little so they can eat it better.
I know November is the heart of deer season, but if you need a break from a tree stand, a great place to spend a day is in your bass boat. And if you have a really good deer season, you might tag out or kill that big buck you’re after early, and you can spend the rest of November looking for those rocky places where deep water is close to shallow water. And you won’t be catching buck bass.
Slow it down:
Crankbaits are great lures for bass fishing in November, but one mistake many anglers make is reeling them in too quickly. If you’re getting short strikes without hooking up, slow your retrieve even more.