I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked when is the best time to go fishing. I jokingly reply by asking whether there really is a bad time. In all seriousness I view fishing from a seasonal viewpoint and right now the weather and water conditions are favorable for lots of catching.
November will bring some cold fronts but I promise not to complain. I welcome the cooler weather even though the fronts will require bouncing between known productive structure types and seeking shelter along protected shorelines and back-lake areas. Let's discuss a few scenarios and how I plan my fishing strategies.
Let’s say the weather has been stable three to four days with light southerly breezes and temperatures running in the 70s. The water will be warm and bait will be concentrated in guts along sandy shorelines. The presence of bait attracts hungry predators and unless the south wind gets to cranking we will be able to find fish on both leeward and windward shorelines.
Now let’s imagine that run of pleasant weather being interrupted by a strong cold front that drops the air temperature into the lower-50s with 20-plus north wind. This will be a game changer. That sandy south shoreline you fished the day before will now be a rough off-colored mess and the bait will likely have moved on. My focus will switch to back-lakes, but locating a steady bite will probably require some exploration.
Something else to keep in mind, anytime we have a strong cold front passing through we will definitely see a drop in water levels due to the north wind pushing the water out into the gulf. It might take a day or so before you will notice a significant drop but I assure you it will drop and, depending on the strength of the front and the high atmospheric pressure that accompanies it, it could drop a foot or more. Caution will be the byword for navigating shallow areas. The flats you crossed easily a day or two earlier might now hold only a few inches of water.
With lower water levels you will want to target “deeper” backcountry areas. I use the term deeper to describe places such as Pringle, Contee, and Pat's Bay, just to name a few. Knowing that the water level is still dropping, I like to target points and mouths of sloughs where water drains from the marsh and smaller lakes into the bay and larger back-lakes. A variety of bait species will be coming on those falling currents and gamefish will be quick to take advantage. Every front brings a ridge of high pressure and the bite is typically sluggish at first. Usually by the second day the pressure will have moderated and the fish will be ready to resume feeding normally.
Now let’s talk about lure selection for just a bit. You will often notice increased surface bait activity during the day or two before a front arrives and this is always a signal to tie on a topwater. My go-to for a long time has been the Super Spook Jr. in either bone or redfish color scheme. While I'm not a big stickler for topwater colors in general, I am a big believer in matching the tone of their rattles to water depth and feeding attitude. My experience says that the Super Spook Jr. is a great compromise for many situations – not too big and not too small. It has great action and emits the perfect sound to attract strikes from reds and trout in shallow water. In other words it’s loud enough to get the job done without being too obnoxious.
After the front goes through baitfish will be noticeably less active due to the sudden change in atmospheric pressure. Soft plastics and suspending baits are a better choice in this situation. Bass Assassins 4-inch Sea Shad will typically be my go-to lure although if the temperatures have dropped significantly I might opt for a member of the Corky family. To be honest, though, I normally don’t get too serious about Corkys and similar suspending baits until later in the season – January and February.
The key to successful fishing any time of year is preparation and it is particularly important in fall. I highly recommend a close eye on the weather forecast in the days leading up to a November fishing trip, and continuing to track weather developments while you are fishing. Always pack raingear and a change of dry clothes. Dress in layers. You can always shed a layer but you can’t wear what you don’t have with you. Keep in mind that sudden drops in water levels can complicate navigation.Happy Fall Y’all!