It has definitely been a crazy year with many unprecedented events that have so many people wondering if things will ever return to a more stable, normal life. Through all the ups and downs though, I continue to feel blessed with what I do for a living. The saltwater soothes our souls, and not just for me, but for so many that have fished on my boat.
I know I've said this a hundred times, but in case you missed it, fall is my absolute favorite time to fish. Cooler weather sparks much greater fish activity in general and they feed more aggressively. Grass in the back lakes has begun to decline, which opens some of the real estate we’ve been unable to fish through the latter weeks of summer. It may be hard to believe but, in our area, there is such a problem as too much grass. I’ll get into that some other time.
November is always a fantastic month for catching. Cold fronts will become more frequent but usually do not include severe temperature drops that can shut down the bite for several days, like we see in January and February. Days when the wind is less than agreeable, due to a passing front, I will focus my efforts in Matagorda Island’s protected back lakes. When the wind is low, you can bet I’ll be fishing any of the numerous reefs and productive shorelines of San Antonio Bay.
One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is…"Under what conditions do topwaters work best?" Personally, I can't get enough of the slaps, slurps, and blow-ups topwaters can produce and would probably throw them all day long if I didn't have to worry about putting my clients on steady action. There are definitely times when you should put the topwater away and throw plastics or slow sinkers instead, but deciding when or when not to use a topwater is a call that most new anglers struggle with. So, here’s a few tips that will hopefully help you with that decision.
First off; scan the area carefully and take notes of what the baitfish are doing. Are they skipping two, maybe three times, across the surface? Or perhaps they are present but peacefully swimming below the surface. Any time you see the bait active on the surface could be a great time to tie on a topwater.
I typically let the amount of surface chop dictate the size of surface plugs to use. A choppy surface tells me to try a larger and noisier plug such as a MirrOlure She Dog, He Dog, or full-size Heddon Spook. Quite often in choppier conditions the clarity will also be off somewhat, and this is where baits with louder, higher-pitched rattles come into play, helping attract the attention of feeding fish. Likewise, when the surface is mostly calm, I prefer a smaller and quieter lure such as the Super Spook Jr. Larger and louder plugs on a calm surface will almost always spook more fish than they’ll trick into biting.
I feel that size, noise, and the action we put on a plug are far more important than color when it comes to triggering a bite, which means I’m not an advocate of carrying a rainbow of colors in my wade box. I basically stick with natural colors - bone, pearl, speckled trout, redfish, and even clear. One of the few times I will opt for a brighter color is when fishing under heavy cloud cover, maybe even some rain, with a very choppy surface. You can cast larger plugs farther and the brighter colors make it easier to keep track of the lure in low-light conditions.
After you've decided which topwater best suits the conditions, make sure to tie it with a loop knot to allow the lure to “walk” in wider steps with less wrist and arm effort. There are many videos online that give tutorials if you don't know how to tie one.In closing, I would like to remind everyone that if you are not accustomed to monitoring the weather forecast before heading out for a day of fishing, November is definitely a good time to start. You don’t want to be caught wading a reef in the middle of the bay when a hard-blowing front arrives unexpectedly. Unfortunately, in years past, several anglers have lost their lives trying to swim after a boat that was not securely anchored. Check the local weather, remain alert, and use good judgement when anchoring and leaving your boat to wade.