October is all about fall fishing patterns. As the water starts to cool down, the bait move shallow and the bass follow. Then when they’re done feeding up, they head back to their wintering areas. It’s a big transition, and if you use the right lures you can find and tempt quality fish the whole time.
If you’ve read my previous “best baits” columns, you know that I like to pick two for the North, from Virginia up, and two for the South, from the Carolinas down. Don’t let that box you in. All four are good just about anywhere, but I like to break it down that way so you know where to start.
Beginning in the north, my number one lure this time of year is a suspending jerkbait. You’ve heard me say it before – baitfish are the deal this time of year, and a jerkbait does a great job of imitating them. Most importantly it works overtime or double duty for you. When the fish are munching you can fish it fast and trigger strikes, but when they’re starting to slow down you can slow it down and keep it in place. Let it sit at the end of a point, on a channel swing, or over a lone boulder, and you might tempt a bass that is mostly thinking about where to spend the winter.
My new favorite jerkbait is the Rapala Mavrik. It casts a mile due to its weight transfer system, and gets down quickly, so when you see fish suspending out deep you can put it in their face precisely.
My second choice for up north is something a little bit more finesse-oriented. Maybe the bite is tough or you’ve caught several fish off of a key spot and want to mop up the reluctant biters. That’s when I go to a spinning rod and a finesse swimbait. Usually it’s in the 2- to 4-inch range, but 2.8 is my typical favorite. I fish it on a ball head or VMC Finesse Half Moon jig head (1/8 to ¼ ounce), typically in shad colors. One of my favorites is Pro Blue Pearl.
What I really like about the finesse swimbait is that you can count it down to the level of the fish. That’s especially true if you’re using forward facing sonar – you can throw at them, put it right in front of their faces, and watch them bite.
Now let’s move to my two baits for southern waters. The first one is going to make me sound like a broken record because it was one of my choices for September, too – a crankbait. It’s a category of lure that works year-round, but it really shines in the spring and fall. You may remember that my rule for crankbait fishing is to choose a lure that runs as deep or deeper than the bottom. This time of year I’m often cranking in mid-range depths, so a Rapala DT8, DT10 and DT14 get the most use.
With the crankbait I’m targeting bass that are coming out of pockets and creeks and moving along break lines. I can cover water, deflect off of cover, and perhaps most importantly this lure gives me an amazing sense of where the bass are grouped up.
While those first three lures are all baitfish imitators, as fall progresses some of the bass tend to move on to other forage types. That’s why my fourth choice is a jig, especially a ½ to 1 ounce football jig. My favorite is the Missile Baits Head Banger.
In the summer, when the water was hot, I wanted my jig trailers to have a lot of action. As the water cools, I tend to move more to chunk-style trailers, like the MaxScent rabbit ears shaped trailer. It presents a big profile and some action, but it’s a fluid action. I use it to target hard spots of areas where they’re leaving the fall feeding zones.
October is a great month to fish. It’s not too cold yet and the fish are generally biting pretty well. Get out there with these four lure choices and you are equipped to have some great days on the water.
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