Fishing over Hunting: Every Time
When you take a look out on the water in November you don't see the throng of boat traffic that a typical fall day would include. Mainly because most anglers are hunters, and they replace their rod n' reel for rattlin' antlers and grunt tubes. I find myself in the same dilemma each November, and the result is always the same give me the open water.
I'm not bashful when it comes to answering the question of whether I want to fish or hunt in November. Of course, you have the rut kicking into high gear and bucks are cruising. Think of it this way: This is the time of year when feeding in big schools is typical for bass, while bucks are splitting up and going their own separate way, looking for a few doe. They aren't even hanging in the same area. They could range as far as a mile or completely shut off and go nocturnal.
Bass, on the other hand, are located where the feed is, and gathering in schools of 15 to 20 big bass is not uncommon. The key to fishing this time of year is keying in on what they like to eat. It could be shad down South, herring in the West or goby in the North. Locating the bait and patterning them will be the key to success; this is when reading maps and using your electronics is crucial.
Depending on your area, the fall feed takes place in October/November in Northern waters and November/December in the Southern states. November is the end of the fall feed, which is completely different from the prime feeding time in the spring. Sometimes the two areas where fish are located overlap, but understanding the difference between the two is important. Spring feeding will relate to spawning areas, whereas the fall feed is all about feeding their bellies with the local fare. Bait patterns are fairly easy to figure out.
I have a bunch of river systems around my area, and I start by fishing the secondary points and creek mouths heavily. Bass are pretty smart creatures, and they home in on the area where baitfish congregate to eat. Once that tide starts pushing baitfish out into the main lake, it's game on.
Around this part of the country, I chase the shad in the river, but whatever system you are fishing it will hold true find the bait and you find the bass. Wherever there is a current break in any river system that the bait is keyed on, you will find a heavy concentration of bass hanging around for an easy meal.
In most systems bait will be located in the top of the water column and toward the shallows. Bass are finicky creatures and putting distance between you and them will be important so that spooking them doesn't enter the picture. I like to make long casts with a smaller swimbait like a 4-inch Berkley ® Powerbait ® Hollow Belly in the Gizzard Shad color. I don't like to use the larger swimbait because I don't see too many baitfish that time of the year that are quite that large. The Hollow Belly comes with a weighted hook, but I like to use nothing more than a 1/4-ounce weighted hook that is exposed through the back. I, of course, use 10-pound Trilene ® 100% Fluorocarbon paired with an Abu Garcia ® REVO ® STX 7:1.1 reel. I like the high-speed reel because I can take up the slack on these long casts. I will use a 7-foot medium-action rod to round out the gear.
Once I've found my target, I cast out the Hollow Belly and try to keep it in the upper water column because that is where the bait is and I want it to look as realistic as possible. Using a slow to moderate retrieve, bring the bait back to the boat. Usually if you catch one, you will catch several fish. They congregate, so keep that boat moving if you don't have a fish on the end of your line.
November is the best time for me to hit the water instead of the woods. Boat traffic is down so I don't feel pressured and the fish feel the same way. After getting hammered all summer long, they finally have a time when they can school up and pack on a few extra pounds before a long winter. Don't waste any time; set down the hunting gear and launch that boat. It's feeding time.