One of my elementary school teachers often said, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question. Questions help us learn.”
She was right. At times, we’re reluctant to ask a question because we’re afraid we’ll seem foolish for asking. But in truth, the best way to learn is to ask.
With that in mind, we offer the following answers to bassing questions you were afraid to ask.
The water in my favorite bassin’ lake is exceptionally clear during late winter’s prespawn period. What causes this, and what can I do to catch more bass in this situation?
Early in the year, summer’s lush green beds of aquatic vegetation are gone. In fact, all vegetative growth, including the countless micro-organisms that cause water to be dingy during warm months, is at a minimum.
Lake and river waters are clearer during winter than any other time because vegetation has not yet started seasonal growth. Furthermore, tannins —dark-colored natural plant products from decaying leaves — are in short supply, clearing most fishing waters even more.
To help overcome problems associated with clear-water fishing, remember these tips:
1) Bass in clear water can see you and your tackle more clearly. Wear shades of blue or gray to help you blend with the sky and remain less noticeable. You also should use lighter line (6-pound instead of 12, for instance) that’s harder for bass to detect. Make long casts, remaining some distance from the cover you’re fishing so you’re not as likely to frighten fish.
2) When possible, fish during low-light periods. Bass move deep when the sun is high to avoid bright light. But in early morning and late afternoon, light penetration is minimal, and bass move to shallows to feed. Cloudy or windy days are good, too.
3) Live baits like crayfish or minnows may outproduce artificials in clear water because there’s nothing phony for bass to observe. When using artificials, use smaller versions and a fast retrieve. Don’t give bass time to inspect them.
Can you offer tips for fishing in gusty winds?
It’s tough to fish with gusty wind rocking and rolling your boat. The best way to deal with this problem is to get out of it.
Look for areas where wind has the least effect: the windward end of the lake, the windward sides of coves and the lee sides of islands. These calm areas not only provide relief from wind action against your body, rod and boat, they’re also refuges sought by bass.
Unfortunately, bass fishing doesn’t always fit itself neatly into logical equations. Bass may not be in those calm areas of the lake, and if not, you shouldn’t waste any time there. In this case, you may want to try drift-casting.
The idea is to let the wind blow you the length of the lake while you cast ahead of the boat. It’s similar to trolling, but your lure is ahead of you instead of behind.
Cast your lure out as far as you can straight ahead of your boat, let it sink till the line goes slack, then retrieve it fast. After a few yards of retrieve, let the lure fall again, then retrieve, let it fall and so on until it’s back to the boat. Then repeat the process.
Spinnerbaits are especially good for this technique because they don’t require much forward motion to give them action, and because they’re extremely enticing while dropping through the water. Most importantly, strikes on spinnerbaits are easy to detect, even when the wind cuts your sensitivity down to near-zero.
I often encounter high or fast-rising water after heavy rains. This seems to give bass a severe case of lockjaw. What can I do?
First, understand that fast-rising water tends to scatter fish. As the water level rises, more and more cover is flooded, giving bass lots of new territory to go to. They seldom stay concentrated in any one spot. Instead, most will be suspended and moving around like nomads. Normal fishing patterns go out the window.
The key to resolving this tough situation is to stay on the prowl until you determine a pattern. Keep a fish-finder on while you fish, and watch it closely, looking for suspended bass.
If you find a school of fish, toss out a marker buoy and fish the area thoroughly. If not, keep moving and watching the sonar. If you’re patient and cover lots of water, sooner or later you’ll establish a productive fishing pattern.
When the water level peaks and stabilizes for a few days, look for bass suspended and holding tight to offshore cover. The fish know the water will soon drop away from the banks, and their instinct tells them to get in deeper water until everything settles down.
Try fishing jigs, worms, deep-diving crankbaits and big spinners using a slow approach and working each bit of cover thoroughly.
What’s the best way to find bass in a lake with little or no visible cover?
If you have a fish-finder, there’s nothing to worry about. Flip it on and look for readings indicating flooded timber, stump fields or other cover that might concentrate fish.
Sonar will also help you pinpoint shallow flats, channel drop-offs, humps, points and other bottom structure where bass are likely to be found.
If you don’t have a sonar unit, there’s still no need to fret. Look for visual clues above the water that help you focus on good bass fishing spots.
Study the general contour of the shoreline. Is the bank straight and smooth? If so, there’s probably little cover available for bass.
If the shore has lots of irregular features, it means more cover is probably available. If the shore is soft and muddy, you’ll probably have a hard time finding fish, but if it’s hard with sand and gravel, it could be favorable.
Shore terrain often continues below the water. Ridges remain ridges or points underwater, flat shoreline usually stays flat, steep banks indicate drop-offs, and steep turns on a reservoir arm may mean you’ve located a submerged stream channel bend. Tune into these visual cues to help pinpoint bass.