There may not be a better month than October for those of us who love the outdoors. Hunting seasons are in full swing and some of the season’s best fishing action occurs now.
Fish of all species are often cooperative, plus some of the year’s biggest fish find the bottom of landing nets now too.
The key to finding big fish, regardless of the season or the species, is going where they live. That sounds simple, but some anglers get frustrated because they rarely catch big fish when maybe the waters they fish just simply don’t have many. For that reason, spending most of your fishing time on lakes that are known to produce big fish with some regularity is one way to tip the trophy odds in an angler’s favor.
Once a big-fish destination is chosen, targeting it during the right time frame is another way to increase the odds. The bite for many, if not most, fish species is usually best in spring and fall, with the bigger female fish being more predictable biters during fall as the rigors of the spring spawn are not a concern now.
Very late fall — November — can, however, mean downright cold water and a tougher bite. That’s another reason October is prime time.
Another key to success right now is using the right baits, particularly the right-sized baits. Big fish are used to eating bigger prey, meaning larger baits often rule during fall.
Slip-sinker live bait rigs, aka “Lindy rigs,” tipped with big minnows like redtail chubs, creek chubs, or sucker minnows are often used by walleye anglers in the know when chasing big fish. “Big” used to mean minnows in the 4-to-6-inch size range. Recently, however, several of the biggest walleyes caught in Midwestern fall walleye tournaments have come on minnows 7 inches in size and even bigger.
Smallmouth bass are my favorite fall fish to target. Tubes in the 2.5-inch size range and finesse plastics on drop-shot rigs catch numbers of bass, but the bigger specimens are often caught on bigger baits. My best “big fish” tube, for example, is a 3.5-inch KVD Pro Model Tube.
Largemouth bass fishing during fall often means locating fish relating to what’s left of green, living weeds along deep weedlines. These fish often eat crankbaits and using bigger-sized baits that reach the deeper depths the bass are found in now is key. These bigger baits also appeal to bigger bass now too.
Big baits fished at the right time in the right waters is often a winning formula for getting a big fish to bite during fall. Then, being patient and using good fish fighting and landing skills are required to close the deal.
Taking your time to not rush a big fish and then being ready for the fish’s inevitable “last run” at the boat are essential. A final key is to have a big, sturdy landing net designed for large fish. I’ve been using the new Fortis nets recently and found them to be sturdy and strong and feature engraved rulers on the handles so I can quickly measure and release a trophy fish.
If landing the fish of a lifetime is your goal, October is a great time to be on the water.
As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure.
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit fishingthemidwest.com for more "fishy" stuff.