October has become my favorite month of the year. Readers of this monthly column know that I prefer to fish in the fall, and for me, October is when the crappie action starts getting good.
Listen, like an ever-increasing number of you, I am not afflicted with deer-itus. Some of my best fishing buddies are avid deer hunters, and, for them, October signals “huntin’” season. Shoot, I’m glad when deer season rolls around if for no other reason than it clears out some of the fishing pressure.
Perhaps I love October so much because, for me, the immediate past few months have been practically devoid of fishing. I must admit that the older I get, the less I enjoy going to the lake in the summertime — especially on the weekend.
I’ve become intolerant of summertime recreational boaters. I’m one of those “old-timers” who figures everyone ought to at least know how to load and unload a boat before they get to the boat ramp. And I’m also one of those guys who watch in amazement when some banjo picker wades out into waist-deep water and tries to walk his boat onto a “drive-on trailer” with a rope over his shoulder like he’s pulling on a stubborn mule.
Consistently, the biggest mistake I see inexperienced boaters make when loading or unloading their boats is they back their trailers way to far into the water. Less is more, up is down for those guys you see straining, trying to hand-wrestle the bow of a boat back onto a trailer’s front roller or bumper.
One day, some of my fishing buddies and I were parked under the shade tree right at the Highway 43 boat ramps after coming off the lake. We were entertaining ourselves watching and laughing at the “week-enders” loading/unloading every kind of boat imaginable. About every third one was repeating the same rookie mistake of dumping too much boat trailer onto the steep ramps there.
We’d laugh and point, and even had a game going of trying to predict whether the next guy was capable of backing up his trailer and unloading without incident. We kept daring one another to “go help that guy.”
Well, we watched this one poor fellow who was coming in from fishing all morning with his wife — first mistake it sounded like. This woman got out of the boat onto the concrete pier, and was constantly talking. Like a little fiest dog, she never shut up. And when he backed that trailer into the water, she began to give him advice, way too much advice, on how to get that Bass Tracker back onto the trailer.
After re-positioning his trailer a few times with his wife’s help, the man finally decided just to wade out to the boat with the winch strap in hand. Yep, you saw it coming. He stepped on a slick spot, and under he went. Baptized himself right there on the boat ramp.
So, he figured, “I’m wet. I might as well go ahead and wrestle this thing back onto the trailer.” He was in water up to his waist trying to lasso and tie that little aluminum boat to his now under-the-water trailer. He was wet. He was frustrated. He was hot.
We were over there under the shade tree laughing our you-know-whats off. That’s when I decided I’d go try to help him.
He was standing there, winch strap in hand in knee-deep water, water dripping off his elbows, hands on his hips, looking thoroughly disgusted when I walked over.
“Hey, mister, want me to pull your truck up about 2 feet so you can drive that boat onto that drive-on trailer?”
End of lesson. The wet, frustrated man never said a word. He just turned and looked at me. That silent, drop-dead glare was enough to chase my 250-pound butt right back over to the shade tree and my laughing buddies.
“I don’t think that guy wanted my help,” I said. “You boys help the next one.”
But it’s October, and the fishing is easy. Typically, October brings not only fewer fishermen but cooler water temperatures, which relocate crappie to their fall feeding-frenzy patterns. I’ve learned that fall patterns vary from lake to lake.
On some lakes, crappie tend to run shallow during the fall. On other lakes, they run to the deep ledges and main river runs. Follow the shad on your favorite fall lake. That’s the key. Follow the baitfish, and you’ll find the crappie.
My experience says that lakes Chotard, Albermarle, Washington and Wolf tend to fish shallow in the fall. And Barnett Reservoir fall fishing success is found much deeper.
One of the best fall seasons I’ve ever had was a couple of falls ago over on Albermarle fishing in 8 to 14 feet of water, but only fishing about 4 feet deep. Day after day of unbelievable huge slabs slamming — not just biting, but slamming — our live-bait drift poles. The daily limit of 50 per person was no problem.
And I hear the summer pattern was never better than on Chotard/Albermarle. I went twice, and, for the first time ever, Chotard Landing actually had a parking attendant handling the overcrowding in the pre-dawn hours. That’s right — a nice little lady in an orange vest with a flashlight was directing crappie and bream fishermen where to park. I’ve never seen a parking attendant at a boat ramp before.
October is T-Time for me and lots of other crappie tournament anglers. Magnolia Crappie Club has set its new schedule for the 2009-10 season. We’ll be fishing nine regular one-day events beginning this month through May, followed by the Magnolia Crappie State Championship in June 2010.
I can’t wait! I look forward every fall to seeing all my MCC fishing buds at our Friday night get-togethers and then competing against them on T-Day.
Make no mistake, fellows, I’ve been practicing that long-lining stuff with my new MinnKota and my new speed-trolling setup, and I’m ready to catch ’em as big as they grow again this season.