By Marc Rogers
On the Water Bass Fishing Lessons
The majority of anglers consider non-productive days on the water as something close to a failure. Some even express disappointment when just a few fish are caught and sometimes say things like “I should not have gone fishing today”. However, times when fish are not caught there are still lessons that anglers can learn from their day on the water.
Anglers experiencing poor catch rates should record the conditions and what they tried on that particular day so they know what did not work. While it is nice to discover what did work for a great day on the water, this process of elimination can be very helpful on later outings. I have had countless multi-day fishing outings where what was learned on the first day helped tremendously during later days. If I did not catch fish on the first day, and the second day presented similar conditions, I knew what not to do on day two of the fishing trip.
One recent bass tournament situations comes to mind when I think about learning while not catching fish. I competed in a tournament where sub-legal bass were easy to catch in shallow water. While catching more than 50 bass I was able to weigh in just one legal size bass at the event. This bass was caught in 8 feet of water, with a jig, 30 minutes before the end of the tournament. While reflecting back on this day it became clear to me that I waited too long to make a presentation or lure change. There were many limits brought to the scales that day by other anglers and they too reported catching numerous small bass. What I discovered was the small males were moving into the shallow water to get the beds ready for the spawn and the larger females were still staging in 8 – 12 feet depths. The larger bass were not as aggressive like the smaller ones were so my fast and shallow lure presentations did not entice them into biting lures.
Two weeks later I entered another tournament on the same lake. The weather conditions caused the water temperature in the lake to remain similar to the prior event’s conditions. The water temperatures had increased about three degrees not much else had changed. During this event I stayed away from the shallow water and used crankbaits that maintained a depth of eight feet.
The smaller bass were still active at this depth as well, but I was able to catch a limit of legal size bass along with many smaller ones. The largest bass of the day was over 6 ½ pounds and won the big bass money of the event. These larger bass were all taken on a crankbait at approximately eight feet deep.
The larger females spend a very short time in the shallow water during the spawn. After moving onto the banks they deposit eggs in a bed and move out again to recover from the stress of the spawn. It is the males that spend the most time in the shallow water, guarding the nest and young from predators. The window of opportunity for catching the larger females in shallow water is small.
There were really two lessons learned from my poor performance of the prior tournament. First, I should not have spent all day catching sub-legal bass without trying a different approach. Second, was the lesson of moving to deeper water to take the larger females that were staging to move up into the shallow water to spawn.