As October arrives, outdoor junkies spend more time away from home than at home, with hunting seasons wide open and the saltwater fishery sizzling along the coastal front.
But many anglers forget the freshwater bite that also picks up during fall, and the Waccamaw River, which twists and turns through both Carolinas just inshore of the coast, is ground zero for one of the best largemouth bass bites of the year.
The Waccamaw is one of the prettiest rivers around, beginning at the spillway below Lake Waccamaw in North Carolina and dumping into Winyah Bay near Georgetown, S.C. And while thousands of people drive over these tar-colored waters daily, few anglers venture into these bald cypress-lined channels to catch a bass.
Pro angler Dana Rabon of Conway, S.C., calls the Waccamaw home, and she said fall fishing there is never to be missed.
“The fall fishing can be fantastic on the Waccamaw,” said Rabon, who fishes the BAA Woman’s Pro Bass Tour. “As the water cools down, the bass go into the creeks to feed and fatten up for the winter.”
Downstream from the state line, the centuries of channel movements and the fact the river follows a major swamp corridor creates small creeks and channels all over. The Waccamaw River snakes from one side of the watershed to the other, with plenty of places to fish.
Bass make a living there throughout the yea; the habitat ranges from super-shallow areas to very deep holes in channel bends and old oxbow lakes. As cooler weather begins to drive the water temperature down, the fishery responds, beginning with the baitfish and followed by the apex predators.
“The baitfish will run into the back of the creeks in the fall, and the bass will be right behind them,” Rabon said. “It’s fairly predictable this time of year, and you can have bumper days in these creeks.”
Rabon’s favorite creeks are ones with treetops, logs or brush piles off the bank, but near the shallower sections.
“I like finding a treetop or some structure in 3- to 4-foot water in the creeks. Bass will be hanging in these structures looking to ambush passing baitfish,” she said.
According to Rabon, the bass are less selective in these creeks off the river in fall, and a reaction bait can allow anglers to cover water and get some quick action.
“I like reaction baits or anything that rattles, vibrates or flashes and gets their attention,” she said. “Bass aren’t afraid to chase a lure this time of year. I love using a buzzbait or any type of topwater bait early and then switch to a spinnerbait or some type of soft plastic.”
Rabon won’t deny that topwater lures are some of her favorites to start the day, but she can’t ignore her success rate with a worm, either.
“I love using junebug-colored worms from Prosser Bait Company, either wacky rigged or Texas-rigged. They can produce lots of fish this time of year,” she said. “A big worm will usually produce bigger fish in this river when it’s cool in fall.”
The bass can be aggressive in fall conditions and a large collection of lures can put these fish in the boat this time of year.
Even though the deer rut is approaching and the spots are beginning to bite at the beach this month, a trip to the Waccamaw River is surely not to be missed if big bass are on the hit list.
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