Anglers have a difficult time understanding that fish don’t live by a calendar. Magazines, books, television and all of the other bass-fishing education outlets have taught us that bass do certain things at different times of the year. For the most part, those predictions are pretty accurate, but not always.
Take this example of what I encountered last season. I fished an Alabama lake in May and found that the fish were starting to move onto the ledges and were hitting my big crankbait. It had been a wet spring, so I figured bass were about two weeks from being loaded up on main-lake structures, which would have been a normal thing for them to do.
I went back two weeks later and found the water two feet higher and stained. I figured the bass would be scattered on points, so I tied on my crankbait and spent half the day fishing main-lake structures.
When I didn’t get any bites, I ditched that plan and began working my way back into a creek channel, targeting secondary points and the creek ledge. Finally, I hit the mother lode in the back of a creek. It was June, the water temperature was 90 degrees, the air temperature was 95 degrees and the fish were in places you would expect to find them in March or April.
I surmised that those fish were the same ones I was catching on river ledges two weeks earlier. However, the heavy rain and influx of fresh water lured the bass away from summer haunts and into spring-time patterns.
The point I’m making is that regardless of what time of year you’re fishing, you must adjust to conditions that can alter fish movement. It would have been easier for me to assume that the fish were scattered, suspended or simply not biting on the main-lake structures. If so, I loaded up the boat and headed home I would have missed out on a fabulous shallow-water bite that day.
Fish don’t schedule their Fourth of July vacation on river channels. They let conditions dictate where they will be. Anglers need to do the same if they’re going to catch them effectively.
For example, if the water is falling, they probably will be on deep structure. But if it’s rising, regardless of the temperature, they’re probably going to follow rising water to the bank.
During the dog days of summer, most anglers figure the fish have all moved deep because of the hot sun and high water temperatures. However, the main-lake water quality can suffer from a lack of oxygen, and the thermocline will force baitfish and game fish into shallower water. So while conventional thinking may have anglers dragging worms in 20 to 30 feet of water, you may whack bigger ones with a flipping rig in 2 feet of water.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes the fish move up, and sometimes they don’t. You have to keep an open mind and analyze the conditions. Did the water quality change? Has the place you caught them a few years ago silted in or suffered a habitat loss? Has there been a change in forage that affected bass-feeding habits?
The effect fishing pressure has on bass is another matter to consider. I know several anglers who were great fishermen 10 years ago but aren’t as good today because they never adapted to today’s intense fishing conditions.
Even though you may read in one of my columns that bass move to the lake points and ledges during summer – and they do under normal conditions – you’ve still got to be thorough. Don’t get hung up on what the fish did at the same time the previous year or how you caught them the week before.
Bass don’t live by a rigid schedule and neither should you.