October 29, 2021
When it comes to late October and Halloween—and the opportunity to grab a little candy and catch a few bass—many bass fishing pros and serious amateurs are in complete agreement on why the time frame can be so enjoyable.
The bass—both largemouths and smallmouths—are feeding up heavily on shad and are more than willing to bite in many locations. And for the anglers, there’s always some of the kid's candy to sneak away and carry with you in the boat.
That's even true for bass fishing's all-time greatest, the GOAT known as Kevin VanDam from Kalamazoo, Mich. In fact, he loves late-October bassing … and the right Halloween candy, too.
"In late October, it's all about finding the shad," said VanDam. "It's a great time for topwaters and for me, that's a Strike King Sexy Dawg. And since we're wanting to imitate shad right now, the only color for me is Sexy Shad. About the only thing I'll do to trick the bait out is to exchange the stock hooks with my Mustad KVD treble hooks, but otherwise, it's a favorite fall bait for me from Michigan to Texas and everywhere between."
VanDam, who is as smitten with chasing white-tailed deer and mule deer at this time of the year as he is chasing largemouth and smallmouth bass, likes to throw a Sexy Dawg on his 7'4" medium heavy Lew's signature rod for topwaters, 50-pound Bass Pro Shops braid, and a high-speed reel that makes it easy … to cast and easy to throw a long way towards boat docks, lay downs, the backs of creeks, schooling fish, and bait balls, the kind of thing that I really focus on now."
The four-time Bassmaster Classic champ and seven-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year—who now competes on the Bass Pro Tour and won his first BPT derby earlier this year—has had some glorious days chasing fall bass.
"It can be really good and some of the best fishing is in the afternoons," said VanDam. "When shad come up to the surface and are schooling pretty heavily, there can be lots of bass keying on them and it can be really good.
"In the past, I've had some really incredible days on Kentucky Lake throwing Sexy Shad Sexy Dawgs, especially when they'd pull up on some shallow river bars," he added. "They'd do that chasing gizzard shad and for many years straight at the Strike King writer's conference that we'd have there, it was epic and something that I'd really look forward to. But the truth is that the same thing is going on at many other lakes across the South."
What about up north in the smallmouth country that KVD calls home near his Michigan roots?
"Shallower weed clumps and sand bar drops can be really good up north," VanDam said of late-October action for bronzeback bass. "In fact, a couple of weeks ago, we really got on the smallmouths pretty good up here using Sexy Dawgs. It was especially good on slick calm days—they are really focused on looking up on those kind of days."
So, What's KVD's Halloween Candy Pick?
Since it's Halloween, I asked VanDam if he might have a favorite Halloween candy, and maybe a least favorite one, too.
"You bet," said KVD. "My favorite is Sweet Tarts and M&M’s. My least favorite is candy corn, I don't like that at all."
Believe it or not, VanDam isn't alone, in his love for playing Halloween tricks on bass and in his candy choices.
Jimmy Houston, the longtime TV fishing show host on Outdoor Sportsman Group programming and a member in both the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame and the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, agrees with KVD on the one hand, but not the other.
"At this time of year, I love throwing a topwater bait, for sure," said Houston, who was filming and fishing as he talked to me on the phone. "I want to throw stuff that makes a lot of noise and commotion since the fish are going into the fall feeding frenzy and gorging themselves."
Houston: Don't Get Tricked and Treat April like October
Houston does caution that a lot of people get tricked at this time of the year, thinking that the calendar matters more than the water temperature.
"Don't get tricked into treating October like April," said Houston. "Like right now, the water temperature here in Oklahoma is 68.3 degrees. A lot of people want to go chase bass up shallow right now, but the quality fish won't go to the bank until the water temp gets down around 58 degrees. You can still catch quality fish right now down south, but the big ones won't be on the bank right now, that's coming in another two or three weeks."
For his topwater baits, and the Redman spinnerbaits that Houston—who is Choctaw—is helping to bring back to the market soon, "America’s Favorite Fisherman" likes something shad-colored with some red, blue, or chartreuse tint.
"That's good anytime of the year, but especially in the fall," said Houston. "If you will hold a threadfin shad up to the sunlight now, you'll see some blue and red coloration and the bass love baits that have a little of that."
What about Houston’s favorite candy for Oct. 31?
"My favorite actually isn’t candy at all," said the Cookson, Okla., resident. "It's a caramel-covered apple. I do like Werther's caramels, too, and because I'm old-fashioned, I like candy corn where some don't. If you mix peanuts and candy corn together, as the saying goes, you'll have to slap your kids away to keep them out of the bag."
What about Jimmy’s least favorite Halloween candy? "Is that possible?" he laughed. "Can you have a least favorite candy? It’s all good to me!"
Halloween Picks from the Pros
With those views in mind, here are some other late-October fishing tricks from various anglers, and maybe just a few more Halloween candy delights:
Seth Feider, 2021 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year
"Favorite Halloween fishing trick? Tie on a jig and flip it at everything you come across right now. My favorite candy is a Hershey’s Mr. Goodbar and my least favorite is black licorice."
Andrew Means, Texas amateur angler
“My favorite October fishing trick is none other than the ‘Trick Stick,’ itself. I love Senko’s and similar styled baits, which I have always maintained are among the most affordable and versatile baits in existence. I throw them around brush and cover in the fall, particularly in the backs of creeks, and I’ll fish them Wacky rigged, Neko rigged, Texas-rigged, Carolina-rigged, and even weightless. As for my favorite candy, I like candy corn, which most people hate but I don’t like peanut butter kisses."
Rob Woodruff, Arkansas angler and former Texas fishing guide
"For me this time of year is about finding the schools of shad and the bass that are chasing them. It’s why fall was always one of my favorite times of the year when I guided on Lake Fork. The trick is to not just focus on the topwater action, though. By fishing deeper around the edges of the schools, or allowing the schooling activity to move on and thoroughly fishing the area where a big blow up has taken place, that can produce quality over quantity. As for my candy choices, I’m exactly the same as KVD, I love Sweet Tarts, but only the old-school kind and none of the new-age gummies and such. I also like Milky Way Midnight dark chocolate bars. But I don't like candy corn at all—that tastes exactly like the wax from a birthday cake!"
James Niggemeyer, MLF Big 5 pro
"For my favorite bass fishing trick at the end of October, I'd say a (Strike King) squarebill crankbait all the way, followed by a Thunder Cricket and a Sexy Dawg walking style topwater bait. I haven't done Halloween for years, but I know what candy corn tastes like and to me, it's terrible tasting!"
Kelly Jordon, Bass Pro Tour/Major League Fishing pro
"Halloween and the end of October pretty much is the kickoff to some fantastic fishing in the fall. In most lakes in my home state of Texas, the water quality has much improved from fall turnover last month and the feed bag is on big time. There's less pressure and it's one of the best times of the year to fish from about Halloween into mid-December when the water temp gets below 52 degrees. In fact, the best day of big bass fishing in my life was on Lake Fork on December 13th many moons ago. Halloween candy? Hmm, candy corn is the WORST and Jolly Ranchers are the best!"
Andy Montgomery, BPT/MLF pro
"My best advice for Halloween bass fishing? Ha, I'd say not to fish on Halloween night, but if you do, use all black lures. As for my favorite candy, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are my favorite by far. And my least favorite are those cone shaped nasty things that are orange and yellow!"
Scott Suggs, BPT/MLF pro
"It's that time of year when boat traffic slows way down. And many times, you will pull up to fish a spot and when you do, the fish will start blowing up all around you. But just as quickly, they'll go back down when the water settles down. So, we like to use a 'Spin Top' move. We'll start up and make circles, or figure eights, or whatever we need to keep the shad all stirred up. We do this all through the late summer and fall and it works all over the lake. My favorite candy? That's easy, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. The nastiest candy in my opinion are sour gummy worms."
Ott DeFoe, 2019 Bassmaster Classic champ and BPT/MLF pro
"For the best tricks for bass, fake them out with a fiberglass bass rig, but take the Tracker jet boat instead! Because this is the best time of year to be in a river chasing bass. As for candy, Laffy Taffy is my favorite and Heath bars are my least favorite."
Greg Hackney, Bassmaster Elite Series pro and 2014 Angler of the Year
"A lightweight jig is my favorite fall lure and a big bladed spinnerbait with a #5 willow leaf or larger blade can get some scary bites! As for candy, I'd say candy corn, although I hate the way it tastes. But it signifies the fall season, and that’s my favorite time of the year."
Todd Faircloth, BPT/MLF pro
"I love throwing a topwater right now, a Strike King Sexy Dawg style walking bait. Favorite Halloween candy? Hmm, I'd say that peanut butter bars are my favorite and my least favorite is candy corn."
Chris Bobo, Texas regional tournament angler
"My favorite thing to do, especially on water bodies like Lake Belton in Central Texas, is to throw a weightless Fluke on flooded, shallow cover. My favorite Halloween candy are Dum Dum lollipops and my least favorite is candy corn. Yuck!"
Chad LaChance, host of The Fishful Thinker show on World Fishing Network
"Right now, I like to take the largest Beetle Spin arm, remove the blade, and replace it with a small willow leaf blade. Then I’ll add a 3/8-ounce jig head instead of the stock one and then put a small swimbait or minnow-style body on it. That works great around bass that are keying on young of the year baitfish and it's a look they haven't seen. I also like an underspin style bait, too. As for candy, don't eat it, but I don't like anything puffy like marshmallow ducks and other similar candies."
Scott Cox, Texas regional tournament angler
"The smallies on lakes like my home water at Lake Texoma, they just love a white Zoom Horny Toad style bait right now in late October. The smallmouth here absolutely blow them up when the bite is good! As for candy, I love fun-sized Snickers bars and I hate anything with toffee in it."
Mike Woody, football official and Texas tournament angler
"Well, if I understand the question correctly, the No. 1 Halloween fishing trick for me is to throw a white Fluke after dark. Everything that swims, eats them, including the reptiles! One key is that I'll hit the land with the cast and then drag it in. They will be dirt shallow right now and facing the bank always. During the day, it's hard not to love fishing and looking at the fall scenery right now. As for my favorite candy, I love Reece’s Pieces and I hate candy corn. When I was younger, I’d gorge on them and eat 50 or more and then feel sick. I wonder why?"