“October: That’s when they pay off for playing ball.” ~ Reggie Jackson
It’s also the month that pays off for being patient and waiting for cooler temperatures, less wind and fewer anglers crowding the waterway.
It’s a happy time for this guy.
Trout move into the bays to gorge on white shrimp, while bass take advantage of the cleaner water in the rivers to start feeding for the winter.
Jimmy Barnes with Sportsman’s Junction Outdoor Adventures (sportsmansjunction.com) based in Long Beach has great success for trout in October, while Josh Davis of Lucedale smashes the bass on the Pascagoula River when he’s not sight-fishing redfish on the lower Pascagoula.
Davis’ favorite type of fishing is sight-fishing redfish, but when time or dirty water won’t allow that fun, he doesn’t hesitate to hit the upper Pascagoula River with fiancé Meagan Evans.
“Sight-fishing for reds is my favorite type of fishing and is usually coming into its prime in October,” Davis said. “I have a backup plan, bass fishing the Pascagoula River up in the George County area. The strong current usually cools faster than the parts of the river on the coast you normally see people bass fishing.
“The Pascagoula (River) is usually low and at its cleanest point of the year around October, and this is when the bass fishing really turns on.”
The upper Pascagoula River is littered with laydowns and all types of fishy-looking cover, but Davis steers clear of those areas to focus on a less-targeted feature in the river — structure.
“I have found the key to catching fish is to work structure not cover,” Davis said. “While this part of the river is littered with tempting looking laydowns, I have had little success on them. I instead focus my attention on structure — bluff walls, drop-offs and points that create and eddy on the downstream side.
“Now if you can find this type of structure that has cover on it, then you’ve found the jackpot.
“Another thing I try to key in on is finding a hard bottom. Most parts of the river have a sand/mud bottom mix, but if you can locate somewhere that has a clay/rocky bottom, fish it. They are out there you just have to do some scouting.”
To find this type of structure, you’re going to have to venture north of I-10 — a good ways north of I-10.
Look at it as an opportunity to take a boat ride and blow the cobwebs out of your outboard while taking in the awesome scenery of the Pascagoula River.
“My favorite spot to fish is a place I think many bass fishermen would just motor on by,” Davis said. “The river has carved out a huge bluff wall in a big, sweeping bend.
“Right at the base of this wall is anywhere from 12 to 16 feet of water. Back off the bluff wall toward the center of the river, there is a ledge that drops off to 30 or 40 feet of water.
“This entire ledge has a hard clay/rock bottom with a few laydowns scattered on it. Toward the end of the bend, the high bluff wall tapers off, and the river narrows and shallows up to around 8 feet.”
Davis targets the area with a Texas-rigged black 7-inch Berkley PowerBait Power Worm on a 1/8- to ¼-ounce bullet weight. He lets the current dictate how heavy the bullet weight should be.
“To work this type area, I position the boat in the center of the ledge — bow upstream — and drift down it, occasionally bumping the trolling motor to slow down my drift,” Davis said. “I throw my worm upstream and hop in back to the boat, letting the current do most of the work. This is where your weight comes into play: I like just enough weight to keep my line semi-tight but still let the current carry my bait downstream.
“I will drift all the way down this area, cast toward the bluff and out to where the ledge falls off into the channel.”
While Davis is smashing the bass in the upper-right corner of the Mississippi coast, Barnes is maul-dragging the trout in the lower-left corner.
Barnes has a lot of success in October by focusing on the marshes, bayous and bay in Hancock County and western Harrison County.
“October fishing for me is pretty cut and dried every year,” he said. “It is all about fishing drains on falling tides and the white shrimp migration that usually has already started by late September and runs most of October.
“I fish other conditions, too, but if I can get a good, strong falling tide in the mornings I will be sitting on one of my favorite drains in the bay before sunrise.”
MS-Sportsman.com has a list of tide charts for our region that also show likely feeding periods. With all the technology at our fingertips there’s no reason to miss a key time to be on the water.
“The bite is very early and doesn’t last long on some of these spots, but on some they will last longer up into the morning,” Barnes said. “The best spots for me have been smaller bays off the main bay that have one or, better yet, more than one drain in the back of them.
“I just position myself at the mouth, where the smaller secondary bay empties into the main bay, and wait for the shrimp to start pouring out of the grass in the drains as the falling tide sucks them out of the marsh grass right into the death zone. Just watch for the white shrimp to start getting whacked to know where to position your boat.”
Because Barnes focuses on trout feeding on shrimp, he uses baits that mimic those crustaceans. As the day progresses and the fish move toward deeper water, he’ll switch to a sinking MirrOlure or some similar lure.
“Fishing these spots, about the only things I fish are either a shrimp Creole or shrimp cocktail (Matrix Shad) on a 1/8- to ¼-ounce jig, and usually will just swim it back with a twitch now and then,” Barnes said. “I will also have a popping cork rigged up with a Matrix (Shad) or a glow-with-a-chartreuse-tail Vudu (Shrimp). I will also have a spinning rod with a glow-with-a-chartreuse-tail Vudu Shrimp rigged to fish free-lined on the bottom.”
The tactics these two anglers use to catch fish almost seem too easy do they not?
Let me tell you though: This is what they really do, it really works and it’s a combination of tactics that’ll work anywhere along the coast.
I’ve done what Barnes is describing over in my neck of the woods (Ocean Springs) and caught fish. I will be trying what Davis suggested on some freshwater areas with similar terrain to what he explained a little closer to my house.
Take advantage of the technology at your finger tips, keep your tackle choices simple, set the alarm clock for early, and then get out there and get bit.