Published on Bassmaster.com October 14, 2008
The two words that sum up October fishing are "numbers" and "variety." According to the posts in the BASSlog, October ranks as the best month of the year for numbers. Without doubt, October is my best month for numbers as well as variety. It is also my best month for fishing in deep water. But if I don't graph what I'm looking for deep, I can usually go to the back of a cove and catch good numbers.
If you haven't experienced the fall frenzy, you should do some fishing in October. Looking at stats from the Insider BASSlog, the most fish are recorded with water temps in the low 70s. Second best in October is the upper 60s. Here in Texas we normally get down to those ranges by about the middle of October. This year looks to be the same, so we still have the best action of the year in front of us.
Those in the northern states should be experiencing the best action of the year already. Once the water temps get down to 60, the activity will slow down considerably and it will be time to focus on quality fish rather than numbers. In Texas that usually happens around Thanksgiving, so we still have a solid month of good fishing.
October is a time when you can't rule out any baits. You can fish your favorite baits with confidence because bass will be scattered all over the lakes. On Lake Fork, they will be feeding primarily on shad, so baits that imitate shad get a lot of my time. If you haven't had good luck reading your fishfinder, this is the best time to learn it. The fish will be schooling all over the lake, but often they don't break the surface so you will never know it unless you find them on your graph.
When the water is hot, the lake gets stratified which makes most of the fish suspend and hard to catch. Once it gets down to 60 degrees and below, the fish may group together near the bottom, but their activity level is so low that you can hit them on the head without any action. But in the fall you can find groups of bass schooling near the bottom that will bite whatever you have to offer.
The Insider BASSlog shows the best October baits to be Carolina rigs and crankbaits followed by Texas rigged worms, topwaters and spoons. My personal best baits are Carolina rigs and spoons in deep water and lipless crankbaits in shallow water. Look for my future articles on deep water fishing with Carolina rigs. Right now, with water temps still in the upper 70s on Lake Fork, I'm boating more fish on lipless crankbaits than any other bait. So I will devote the rest of this article to lipless crankbaits.
Over the weekend, I fished in the 3rd annual Berkley tournament. As in most tournaments on Lake Fork, it was a big fish tournament as opposed to a stringer tournament (like the pros fish). The payouts are hourly, so we had to weigh every fish at different hours. We caught a lot of fish. In fact, if it was a stringer tournament, we would have been culling within the first couple of hours. Unfortunately, it wasn't a stringer tournament, so we were looking for the perfect size fish. On Lake Fork, there is a slot from 16 to 24 inches so we were looking for 15-16 inch bass or bass over 24 inches.
We chose to target the smaller fish, so we were looking for a 3-pound bass under 16 inches. Between my partner and I, we had 12 or 13 rods on deck, all rigged with Berkley baits. We caught fish on just about every bait we threw, but all of the fish we brought to the scales were caught on lipless crankbaits. These baits are hard to beat for good numbers of smaller fish. They also produce quality fish, but I think of them as number baits this time of the year.
The best colors recorded in the BASSlog are chrome/blue or chrome/black, so we threw 1/2 ounce and 1/4 ounce Frenzy lipless crankbaits in the closest matching colors. I don't believe Berkley makes a shiny chrome color, which is my preference. But the ones we used boated us a lot of fish. Bill Lewis makes the most popular lipless crankbait. I really like the shape and color of their chrome/blue Rat-L-Traps. The chrome paint peels easily on them, but they catch a lot of fish. Also, the hooks need replacing or sharpening right out of the box (on the standard "Traps").
As a general rule, you will lose about half of your fish on lipless crankbaits if you don't have sharp hooks. This is especially true right now when smaller fish are biting. So make sure you have sharp hooks if want to get them in the boat. Rapala makes a shiny lipless crankbait that has good hooks and doesn't peel as bad. The paint will scratch, but I haven't had a problem with it peeling. They, too, catch lots of fish and seem to last longer. They are a little more expensive, but you don't have to buy as many. There are several other manufacturers that make lipless crankbaits that catch fish, so experiment with the different models and find your favorites. I'm still experimenting myself.
I consulted the BASSlog and was surprised to see that most of the posts on lipless crankbaits were caught in the 6-10 ft range, followed by 11-15 ft. I catch a lot of fish in water less than 5 ft. deep as well as deeper water in excess of 45 ft. I don't believe there is a better bait for schooling bass than lipless cranks, so it's a good idea to have one tied on a rod ready to throw with the hooks untangled, so you can run it through the schoolies within seconds of the time they come up.
As for cover, creek channels, shallow flats and secondary points had the most fish recorded with lipless crankbaits. Submerged vegetation was hands down the best cover. Well over 75 percent of the bass recorded were caught around some type of submerged vegetation. So, break out those baits and start fishing them around some submerged vegetation before the fall frenzy comes to an end.
Be sure to look for my next articles as I plan to write about deep water fishing.