October can be an outstanding fishing month, with fish of many kinds keying on baitfish congregations and instinctively feeding heavily in preparation for leaner times. Some species school during October, and topwater fishing commonly delivers major excitement.
That said, October has its challenges, with the largest one probably being the fact that conditions change dramatically during the month and sometimes from day to day. Many predator and prey species are in transition, working toward winter locations, so the location of the gamefish tends to be a moving target. As significantly, the fish’s locations and behavior can shift dramatically from day to day or even within a day when an early cold front crashes through.
Change isn’t bad. You simply must understand that change is likely and must set strategies accordingly.
Because the fish are on the move, often following forage, it’s typically prudent to spend time searching before you start fishing. Look for baitfish schools, both visually on the surface and with electronics. Whether you’re talking about shad or herring in reservoirs or mullet or bunker in bays or the ocean, if you find a bunch of bait, that is a major step toward finding the fish you want to catch. Pay attention to specific areas and characteristics of areas where you find the most baitfish.
Also think about transition zones. Because water color, water temperature and barometric pressure change quickly and frequently during October, fish make heavy use of structures like points and reefs that connect deep and shallow habitat, especially structures they can readily move up and down when conditions change. In the brine, passes that connect inside waters with the ocean are important October transition zones.
For the same reasons, lures that appeal to fish swimming at a range of depths tend to work well. Topwater lures, although they obviously stay at one level, fit this category because they use splashes, sound and movement to call fish up from a range of depths. If fish are willing to commit to a Jumpin’ Minnow or Pencil Popper, which they often are during October, you don’t need to know whether they are coming from 2 or 20 feet down to attack.
If the fish won’t come up, it’s helpful to have lures that you can fish effectively at a range of depths. A YUM Pulse swimbait on a jighead, a BOOYAH Hard Knocker and a Heddon Sonar are good examples of lures you can swim barely beneath the surface, work off the bottom or fish anywhere in-between simply by altering presentations. This allows you to search as you fish without having to continually switch lures.
Finally, do your best to “match the hatch” with the shape, color and size of your offerings. Although many things change during October, one thing that doesn’t change is that gamefish pay attention to the things they like to eat!
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