Bass fishermen who prowl Mississippi’s biggest waters — from Pickwick Lake to the coastal rivers, from the Tenn-Tom to the Big Muddy — love October.

“Two things happen in October that combine to create some of the best bass action of the year,” said bass pro Pete Ponds of Madison. “Shad migrate into backwaters, bring bass with them, and hunting seasons start and take a lot of bass fishermen off the water. Reduced pressure at a time when the fish are voracious and shallow simply means good fishing.”

Barnett Reservoir is where Ponds honed his skills, and October generally finds him either on the edges of the main lake pockets, or the mouths of cuts in the upper river area. Either way, he’s watching for signs of bass busting shad around vegetation.

“Topwaters work, crankbaits work, plastics work; heck, everything in the tackle box works when they move into the cuts and pockets,” he said. “Two of my favorite things to throw up there are a swim jig (Talon’s Pete Ponds Finesse Jig), and a wacky-rigged Senko-type worm.

“When the pads start thinning and the shad move in, the swim jig is deadly. A buzzbait is good, too, as is a frog and a spinnerbait, but the saving grace is often the Senko. Fishing in vegetation, fish miss a lot of the baits. If I get a fish that misses, I immediately toss the Senko right into the area and let it fall slowly. They’ll kill it.”

Ponds said the pattern will work on any water with vegetation and a shad base for forage, like oxbows, the Tenn-Tom and coastal rivers.

“It is kind of fun when you’re fishing a coastal river, and throw a buzzbait, get a miss, throw in a worm and catch a redfish,” he said. “It happens, I promise you, and every time it does I think I got a monster bass. Then the reel starts screaming as it takes line, and you know it’s one of the red ones.”

At Pickwick Lake, veteran guide Roger Stegall moves away from the river humps and starts fishing bluff banks and points for a mix of largemouth and smallmouth, and he’s not above hitting the deep boat docks to find huge schools of spotted bass.

“Thing is, water can be so clear, you can see them down there 10 or 12 feet deep in 20 feet of water under the shade of big boats,” Stegall said. “It’s a hoot trying to hook them, but when you do, they go nuts and are a lot of fun.”

But, his bread and butter as a guide are the big largemouth and smallmouth that made him famous. 

“You might not catch as big a bass in October as you do in the spring, but you catch a lot of them,” he said. “When the shad move up on the bluff banks, on in the creek coves and other pockets, the bass follow and you can find schools. And they will be eating, and you might not see another boat all day in that area.

“You got to love October.”