Fishing conditions change quickly in the fall, and the best way to stay ahead of the curve is to stay on the move. As a whole, October is one of the most challenging months of the year to fish unless you live in the Northern states. In the Southeast, the fish are in transition, but it’s still not quite cool enough to see a noticeable improvement in fishing quality just yet.
So it pays to cover ground if you expect a good day on the water. That’s my approach, and I spent a lot of time with topwaters, and I’ll also mix in shallow crankbaits.
Since bass are in a transition and on the move, they’re not feeding as much and aren’t as active as they are in spring and summer. This makes the topwater a good weapon, but one of the biggest keys is to be stealthy and make long casts. In my experience, the fish are spooky this time of year and many of your bites are more reactionary than feeding bites.
That’s why buzzbaits have always been good in the fall. I still use them, but also use a lot of walking baits like the standard Livingston Walking Boss and the Jr. size. Ploppers have also become part of my fall plan and work very well to cover a lot of water.
I like to look for the backs of creeks and big flats this time of year because those are places where the fish can roam. You’ll often find wolfpacks of fishing searching for food, and a topwater is one of the best ways to target these fish. You don’t always get a lot of bites – sometimes only a few bites all day – but your chances of catching a big one are very high.
Stick with your guns and cover water, you’ll have a good day more often than not. Also, don’t let the bright sun scare you from throwing a topwater – they’ll bite it all day long.
For my topwaters, I fish a 7-foot, 4-inch medium heavy Daiwa Tatula Elite rod that I designed for big topwaters, blade jigs, and swimbaits. It serves many purposes for me, has an excellent parabolic action, and the handle is shorter. Instead of a 10-inch rod handle that gets in the way and hits your elbow and ribs, it’s shorter and much easier to work the bait. I fish it with an 8.1:1 Daiwa Tatula reel with 50-pound Daiwa J-Braid – you can really launch a bait with that combo.
A few years ago, we had a Cup event in Waco, Texas, that was filmed in October. It was challenging, and we didn’t catch a lot of fish. I did well in the Elimination Round and was the first to hit the target weight during the Sudden Death Round. My strategy was what I explained above, covering shallow water with a topwater and a shallow crankbait.
I was fishing the backs of creeks, making long casts with walking baits and ploppers. I also mixed in the Livingston Howeller squarebill. It’s a shallow crankbait with a hard action that complements the topwaters. Covering water and sticking with moving baits will put you in the best position to have a good day on the water this fall.