November produces some of the best largemouth fishing in South Carolina -- for those who get on the water and use these tactics to pattern the fish. (November 2009)
In late October and in November, many outdoorsmen in South Carolina will focus on the prime portion of the deer rut about this time. But if you're a bass angler at heart, it's time to focus on outstanding largemouth bass fishing. Not only will you have more elbowroom than you did in the spring, the fishing can be just as productive as any of the spring months.
Many of our lakes and rivers will produce excellent fishing at this time of the year. However, the Marion, Moultrie and Wateree trio of lakes are certainly among the prime lakes in the state during November. As is always the case, a little local knowledge goes a long way in zeroing in on the right patterns for the most productive fishing.
We'll look at four specific keys to fishing each of these lakes successfully from late October through early December. About that time, the cooling water temperatures will again change the basic patterns of the fish. But for now, try these tips for more strikes.
Fish tight to cover during midday. Not all the bass will be wild and crazy chasing shad. A lot of fish will be holding tight to cover waiting on a meal to swim by.
Casting accuracy is important, but not quite as critical as it sometimes is during the spring or summer. During the fall, these tight-holding fish will often chase a lure if you just get it close to the cover. Look for something different to key on, such as brush or logs on a point or in the middle of a pocket of water. Focus your effort on anything that isolates that cover from the surrounding area. Work a bait close by it a time or two before working right in the middle of it. Often, you can catch a couple fish back to back. Often you will catch a fish or two beside an object and then work a bottom bumper through the middle and hook another. The same cover and forage attributes that drew the first bass there may, at this time of the year, pull several bass to a small area.
Crank 'em in. Because of the forage fish factor, local anglers strongly recommend a crankbait be one of your primary tools on this lake during the fall.
When fishing in the fall, stay on the go, covering a lot of water until you get into a good bunch of fish. The crankbait mimics the baitfish swimming by and is an excellent tool for searching and catching fish. Often, it is the lure to use once I find a hotspot. Sometimes it's best as the searching lure.
Work an area back and forth with a crankbait and you often will catch fish on a steady basis. Certainly not on every cast, but the same 100-yard stretch can be worked several times with good results. Once the action slows on the crankbait, fish a different lure before looking for the next congregation of largemouth bass.
Fish at night. While you don't want to be running fast in a boat on Lake Marion if you can't see where you're going, there are places where you can safely operate a boat in the dark with reasonable precautions. Plus, fishing at night is often an excellent way to catch largemouth bass shallow on this lake.
Fishing the typical structure "suspects" will work well, such as points, shallow humps and along the edges of drops. However, in the lower end of the lake in the larger creeks, there are lots of docks and often they'll have lights on. Lights attract baitfish and baitfish attract the bass. Fish these areas with crankbaits, plastic worms and a jig-and-grub for best results.
One real key to success when fishing the lighted areas has to do with how you approach those areas. Motor in slowly, and then sneak in quietly using the electric kicker.
Fishing a combination of shallow points, humps and ledges, along with lighted piers, can be a great way to find actively feeding largemouths. Don't overlook the lighted areas around some of the landings, because there's not much boat traffic at night and fish may be drawn to the lights over the ramp. When fishing near deeper water, you might also expect to hook a bonus striper or two as well.
Tempt them with live bait. Live shiners are a vastly underutilized bass fishing bait at Lake Marion. While some anglers use live bait on a regular basis, most bass fishermen rely on artificial lures. That's certainly a reasonable choice, but live bait is a realistic option.
Throughout the cooler months of the year, from November throughout March, some huge largemouths will be taken on these live bait offerings. There are various places that will consistently produce, but usually the edges of weedbeds that drop into 3 to 5 feet of water are ideal places. Also, along the edges of old ditch lines that wind through shallow flats are great spots as well. These ditch lines are used as travel routes for bass, especially big bass. A live, wiggly shiner is a very tempering morsel for these fish.
The rig is simple but effective. Select a good size shiner, locally referred to as a "dollar bill" (about 6 inches) shiner. Hook it through the lips or under the dorsal fin. Put a float on the line from a foot down to 4 or 5 feet deep (depending on the water depth you're fishing), and let the live bait do the rest.
Keep your eyes on open-water humps. Fishing open-water humps is a good summertime technique that does linger throughout the fall. However, as a rule, most anglers will fish humps in even shallower water during November. That generally is because the baitfish will often be found in those areas as well.
Midday is a good time to work these places along the edges into the slightly deeper water as well. Cloudy days can produce outstanding action on top of the humps.
Ask a dozen anglers about which lures will work best on these humps and you get a good assortment of answers, each flavored by their own preference or style of fishing. Bottom bumpers will work fine, as will crankbaits and jigs and grubs. The bass-attracting power of the spinnerbait during the fall is also a powerful ally.
A good rule of thumb is to use the lure that you think works best for the specific place you're fishing. Often there is no "wrong" lure; the only wrong thing you may do is to not fish some of these offshore places.
Employ the Carolina rig. Fishing guide Billy Salmon took me and another angler fishing for a few hours one afternoon many years ago during this time of the fall. He had three rods rigged with Carolina worm rigs when he eased his boat onto a shallow hump. We were far from the shoreline in any direction. He started on the deeper ledge and proceeded to let the wind drift us over the hump and back int
o the deeper water on the other side.
He used the electric motor for a bit of course correction, but for the most part, we simply worked the Carolina rig as if we had cast it, but covered the water by drifting. It was easy fishing and we were able to talk but maintain serious "touch" with the lake bottom.
The result was a number of quality fish on a quick afternoon sortie. The Carolina rig is an excellent tool for this time of the year.
Don't overlook the rig in the shallows either. A lot of fish will be found working baitfish in the shallows and this tool will enable you to cast a long distance and effectively cover a lot of water.
Take yours on the rocks. If you don't have 'rocks' in your head when thinking of how to fish Lake Moultrie at this time of the year, you may be missing some great bass fishing opportunities. The rocks I refer to are generally manmade riprap areas. Extensive areas of riprap are found around the Pinopolus dam and the dikes in Lake Moultrie. Also, we'll count the rocky areas in the Diversion Canal as part of this type of structure as well.
Generally, these riprap areas will lead from shallow water to some of the deepest water in the area in the shortest distance. That can be a perfect recipe for success at this time of the year.
Bottom bumpers are always a good bet here, but slow-rolling a spinnerbait down the rocks is another excellent method of hooking a big bass. If you work an area and catch a few bass or get several bites, don't hesitate to work right back through the same area. Something is attracting those fish to a certain stretch of water and I'd recommend working it hard while the attraction is there. Occasionally, you can figure out what the specific attraction is and find other areas like it.
Don't forget deep water. Certainly November will bring out some great shallow-water bass fishing in all of these lakes. But in all three, and certainly in Lake Moultrie, you can go deep and catch bass. As the fish begin to transition into a deeper winter pattern, not all of them make those moves at the same time.
Regardless of where else you expect to find bass during this time of the year, there is one constant: Some of the bass are going to be in deep water regardless of the other conditions. If you can't seem to hook up on any of the other patterns, then go deep. The challenge to catch them may increase, but you can be reasonably certain that there will be deep-water bass during this time. There will at least be an audience to review your presentation and that does count for something in the confidence department.
While the fishing is often slower paced because you have to take more time to probe the depths, it can be reliable, especially when other patterns are slow.
Sneak up on shallow bass. Lake Wateree can produce outstanding, ultra-shallow fishing during November. But if you crowd them too much, you can push bass right out of those shallows, and all you'll have is the memory of the swirl of water they make as they leave.
I recall one early November morning when I launched the boat at June Creek landing in a dense fog. It was not safe to operate the big motor, so I simply lowered the electric motor and began fishing. I used a Trick Worm with a 1/16-ounce slip-sinker and worked very shallow targets as I eased down the only shoreline I could see. The morning was dead quiet, and except for being able to see the shoreline, just barely, I had no idea where I was. But every few minutes, I was hooking a really nice bass.
Usually, I could predict upcoming bites because I'd hear fish swirling on shad ahead of me, hidden in the fog. But usually I identify a good target about where I figured the bass had been and usually he would take the lure as soon as it hit the water.
Tiny Torpedoes and small crankbaits worked well that morning too. But if I bumped the edge of a dock or a woody snag lying off the shore with the boat, bass would scurry out of the shallows around me. The second time that happened that morning was the last time for that day. I got real careful and quiet and it made a difference.
You don't have to have an identical situation like that to be successful. But if you can get an undisturbed area, work the very shallow water and you may be surprised at the number of quality bass in those places.
Don't dodge the docks. There are a lot of docks on Lake Wateree and to be a complete "bass man" on this lake, you need to accept the fact that some docks will usually hold fish. In fact, it's pretty much a year-round pattern. The specific docks will certainly change from one time to another, but somewhere on any given day, there are some nice bass on docks.
At this time of the year, a lot of the bass will be holding around docks where the end of the dock is in 2 to 8 feet of water. Granted, that's a big variation, but focus your efforts on docks where you see baitfish in the area. Baitfish can be spotted with your eye on calm days, or marked on the graph. Baitfish and docks make a good November connection on this lake.
The best lures range from blade baits, crankbaits to bottom bumpers. Accurate casting makes a big difference in some situations, and flipping can be lethal on quality bass.
Topwater territory. Lost in all the other great-looking places to fish are those lonely bass in the back of the coves during this time of the year. Late October and early November are great times to work shallow-water topwater lures in the back of coves, pockets and creeks.
A lot of forage will stack up in the larger coves and pockets throughout the lake. Often these places are hidden from most anglers because you have to intentionally go to the back of these areas to find them. While the backs of some of the major creeks are certainly productive, the medium- to small-sized coves produce forage most consistently this time year, and where they do, bass and excellent topwater action will be in abundance.
Afternoons and late evenings are best, but a cloudy day will produce good action all day long. Pop R's, Torpedoes and Devils Horse are excellent choices. Almost any reliable topwater lure will be productive. Floating a plastic worm will also work.
Bump the bottom. You seldom go wrong fishing bottom-bumping baits during the fall months on Lake Wateree. There are times and places when other lures will produce extremely well, but day in and day out, the bottom bumpers are a key to consistent success here. That statement continues to be true right on through the winter, pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn times, just in case you're interested.
The bottom bumpers fit the speed and depth requirements of the fish here in November perfectly. Plus, the cooler weather can be an excellent time of the year to hook a really big bass. The bite may not be more than a subtle "thump" or heavy feeling, so be alert for anything different when working the lure.
especially the 6- to 7-inch varieties, are ideal for this type fishing. In addition, the jig-and-pig combo will certainly produce plenty of action and may actually get the nod as the best big-fish producer of the bottom bumpers during cool weather.