Tag Archive for bass fishing

Understanding the Thermocline in Lakes

Understanding the Thermocline in Lakes

By Marc Rogers

Discussing the Thermocline can be a very detailed and scientific subject.  However, for this the basics will be covered in how the Thermocline relates to the behavior of bass.  From spring to fall the Thermocline affects bass behavior in several ways.

In late spring the surface water in most lakes has warmed into the low 70-degree range while the cooler water is well below the surface.  Surface water in this temperature range still holds plenty of oxygen so the bass have not yet started to migrate into the deeper water.  However, as the surface temperature rises into the low 80-degree range, bass will seek the cooler water that holds more oxygen.  The warm surface water doesn’t hold enough oxygen to keep the bass comfortable and this is when they seek the deeper water.

The Thermocline is a small area of water that lies between the warm surface water and the deeper water that also holds little oxygen.  Most of the time this small area of water is only about ten feet from top to bottom.  In the deep Ozark lakes there are sometimes exceptions to this rule and the Thermocline can be up to thirty feet from top to bottom.

In mid-summer largemouth bass will generally hold close to cover and/or structure near the upper edges of the Thermocline.  When an angler finds the Thermocline this is great starting point for the proper depth to locate bass.  A depth finder with the sensitivity turned up makes the Thermocline visible on the display.  It will look like a false bottom reading on the display.

At Lake of the Ozarks the Thermocline will generally be found about 25 feet deep and only reach down to about 35 feet.  In Table Rock Lake – a much clearer body of water – the Thermocline generally starts about 60 feet deep and can extend to about 80 feet deep.

Lake of the Ozarks is best fished during the summer at night due to the amount of boat traffic during the day.  The Thermocline still hold at the same level and should be the targeted depth for bass fishing.  June through August is best fished with a bottom-bouncing lure like a jig, plastic worm or heavy spinnerbaits.  However, most of the time the bass will only be active near the Thermocline.

Table Rock Lake is best fished at depths of 60 – 80 feet deep since this is the depth where the summer Thermocline is generally located.  There are only a few effective means to get a lure this deep.  A Carolina rig can be fished this deep. However, my favorite is to vertical jig a small plastic worm on a ¼ ounce jig head or a jigging spoon presented at the required depths to reach the bass.

Spotted (Kentucky) bass will suspend just above the submerged treetops that are still abundantly available in Table Rock Lake. They will school together at the same general depths most of the summer so once located they are easier to follow at later times.  Again, the key to this location is the Thermocline affecting the behavior of the bass.
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The Top 12 Traits of a Successful Angler

By Larry Murphy

 

  • Make Every Cast Count – every fishing day begins with a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm, but that feeling wanes as the day goes by and the bite is tough. A successful fishermen has the ability to stay focused. Each cast throughout the day should have the same energy and enthusiasm as the first cast of the day. Never give up and stay focused. Just casting and reeling is NOT fishing!
  • Use Quality Gear – successful fishermen buy quality fishing gear and maintain that gear to keep it in top working order. This includes buying good quality rods and reels that can handle the type and expected size of the days catch. It also includes good quality line, hooks, split rings, and leaders. Quality gear is often times the difference between putting fish in the boat and stories about the one that got away.
  • Stick With Confidence Lures – I’ve seen many fishermen drag along dozens, if not hundreds, of lures to the lake. I’m sure that each of these lures can catch fish, but most fishermen tend to throw a small set of baits most of the time. These favorite baits, or confidence lures, work the best because of the confidence that the fisherman has in them, not because of the color or design. Successful fishermen have a short list of lures that they use, and master the use of these lures to produce quality fish on a consistent basis. Also, when the bite is tough these lures become “go to” baits to put fish in the boat.
  • Find a Pattern, Run the Pattern – on any given body of water fish can be found everywhere, but only certain types of cover or structure hold the most active fish. Successful fishermen formulate a pattern, then the determine the pattern within the pattern, then they key in on these places exclusively. Many would call this “run and gun” fishing, but it’s actually a way of skipping unproductive water and keying in on those places that will produce more fish.
  • Observe Other Fishermen – successful fishermen pay close attention to other boats in their vicinity, especially when those other boats are running a pattern that’s different. They might see something that will urge them make a small change in presentation or pattern that might help them succeed. Learning from the success and failure of other anglers in your area is a key part in refining your own fishing pattern.
  • Match the Hatch – this is a fly fishing term, but it actually applies to all types of game fishing. A successful fisherman knows the forage in their area and fishes lures that match both the size and color of those bait fish.
  • Fish for a Reaction Bite – on days when fishing is tough or when fish are in a neutral mood, a successful fisherman will fish faster to look for a reaction bite. Many times fish can be un-catchable with normal speed retrieves, but some of these fish can be coaxed into biting with fast moving or erratic lures. Also, fishing faster allows a fisherman to cover more water and consequently present the lure to more and more fish.
  • Boat Control – accurate boat positioning, especially on windy days, is critical for the successful fisherman. Too far out and your lure may be missing the fish. Too close and the boat may spook the fish. Keeping your boat in just the right spot requires practice and attention detail, and is a key trait of the successful fisherman.
  • Lure Presentation – many times it requires multiple casts, from multiple angles, to entice a fish into biting. Sometimes the lure must be presented with the wind while other times the lure must be presented across the wind. A successful fisherman makes multiple casts, at different angles, to likely looking places to increase their success.
  • Keep a Fishing Journal – most successful fisherman I know keep a journal of their days on the water. They track several things including the days weather, wind conditions, water temperature and clarity, lures used, areas covered, and fish seen of caught. This can be invaluable information and can help the successful fisherman key in on seasonal patterns or recall forgotten techniques and “hot spots”.
  • Celebrate Success and Analyze Failure – even the best fisherman have bad days, and they make mistakes that don’t put fish in the boat. A successful fisherman takes time to learn from their mistakes, and works hard not to repeat them. Also, a successful fisherman appreciates a good day on the water and works to repeat that “good luck” on subsequent trips.
  • Put in the Time – when it comes to increasing your fishing expertise, there is no substitute for time spent on the water. Trial and error, experimenting with new lures and techniques, not to mention learning the area all come from time spent on the water. A successful fisherman puts in the time and continues to learn and improve while on the water.

    Larry Murphy is the owner of Murphy Outdoors

More Time on the Water

By Marc Rogers

Whether fishing a tournament or enjoying a relaxing day on the water anglers always seem to run out of time to catch fish. Even when catching many fish throughout the day we always seem to want a few more minutes of fishing when it is time to call it a day. There are countless ways to add more time to your fishing day without exceeding your fishing time according to your watch.

Being prepared is the key to adding more fishing time. Simple things like having the boat organized for launching when you get to the ramp and having all of your tackle inside the boat and organized will make a difference.  If you do not fish from a boat, having your tackle organized inside your boxes will also make a difference.

When returning home from an outing many anglers put their boat away in the condition is was in at the end of the day. Tackle laying on the deck and floor, rods with backlashed reels and lures in the wrong boxes and are common.  This creates lost fishing time during the next outing if not corrected before leaving home. By cleaning up the mess and properly storing your tackle, you could add several minutes onto you next trip. Remove those rods and reels that need line, cleaning or repair and get it completed before needing them next time.

Make sure your rods are clearly marked to indicate the length and action.  Many rods look alike when in a rod locker and time is wasted when searching for the one you need for that certain application. Most rods have markings on them but some are difficult to read unless removed from your rod locker.  Develop a color or number system to help identify your tackle at a glance.

Several manufacturers of fishing line provide small removable stickers to place on your tackle to indicate line size you have on a reel. Use them, or acquire something similar, and keep them updated each time you change line. This allows you to match your line weight with the lures you are presenting without having to guess what line you have on your reel.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to organizing tackle. Depending on how an angler spends most of his/her time fishing is a good indication on what may fit best. However, seldom do anglers need to take all of their tackle on every trip. Season and conditions will dictate what tackle is most effective and what is not necessary. Therefore, I have found storing tackle in the flat storage boxes like the Plano 3600 and 3700 series best meet my needs. They are versatile and easily marked on the outside to reveal the contents at a quick glance. Individual boxes for each category of lures you carry are ideal for most anglers.

In addition, these styles of boxes are convenient to store in boat lockers as well as carry in bags made for their size. The bags make it easy to transfer tackle to another angler’s boat. Bags also make it easy to take the necessary tackle for an outing where a boat is not used. Bags are not always a good way to store tackle in a boat locker as the bag takes up valuable space. When storing in a boat locker I have found it is best to store the boxes individually in the lockers.

Mark on the outside of the boxes using a permanent marker on tags or masking tape on at least two edges and the lid. This makes the markings easy to read regardless of how they are stored. The tags or tape makes it easy to change labels if necessary.

Similar organizing application for all items used when fishing also pays big dividends. Smaller bags and containers are best with similar items stored together. It makes is easy to find what you are looking for quickly leaving more time for you to keep a lure in the water.

Bass Fishing Indiana’s Patoka Lake

By Marc Rogers

The Army Corp of Engineers completed Patoka Lake in 1978. It is the second largest reservoir in Indiana containing 8,880 surface acres of water at normal summer pool. At normal summer pool it has a maximum depth of 52 feet and an average depth of 22 feet. The Army Corp of Engineers controls the lake’s water level with a spillway for flood control purposes. The lake also provides drinking water for the surrounding areas. Patoka Lake is located approximately 10 miles from French Lick, Indiana.

Patoka Lake was formed by the impoundment of the Patoka River and there are 11 named and unnamed tributaries throughout the lake. The dam is located at the west side of the reservoir. The normal summer pool level is 536 feet above mean sea level. This level is normally stable but can fluctuate between 506 and 548 feet above mean level. The Army Corp of Engineers control over 17,000 acres of land surrounding the lake. The land is leased to the State of Indiana and managed for recreational purposes including hiking, hunting, camping and fishing. Most of the shoreline is wooded and there is little development close to the water.

The lake receives heavy fishing and boating pressure. Therefore, some areas are posted with skiing restrictions and speed limits. The areas are clearly marked with buoys. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources close some areas of the lake during waterfowl hunting seasons because they are designated as nesting areas. The areas include portions of the Patoka River arm, Little Patoka River and Lick Creek arms. Bald Eagles have been known to use the area around the lake for nesting and these areas are also posted as restricted areas.

During construction many trees were left uncut around the shoreline in most of the tributaries. This has left many large areas of standing timber in the lake but boat lanes were made for navigation into the main lake area. Patoka Lake is a lowland lake with the bottom consisting of mainly mud and clay. There are areas where the bottom is gravel and rock near some of the channel bends as the wave action has washed away the mud and clay. There are still many areas of deep water where stumps and broken limestone can be found. These are areas where anglers should concentrate when fishing the deeper water of the lake.

The dominant fish specie in Patoka Lake is the Largemouth Bass. The lake also has a good population of Bluegill and Redear sunfish. The sunfish provide good angling opportunities and a good forage base for the Largemouth Bass. Northern Pike and Tiger Muskie were stocked just after the impoundment filled but failed to reproduce.

Bass Fishing in Patoka Lake is popular due to the catch rates and sizes available. There is a 15-inch length limit on Largemouth Bass. This length limit has helped the fishery produce many 3 – 5 pound Largemouth Bass and the catch rates are above the state’s average. I have personally taken many legal size bass from this lake with the largest weighing in at 7.5 pounds.

During the spring (March and April) anglers should concentrate on shallow water first. Many legal size male will be preparing for the spawn during this time and are eager to feed. When the surface water temperatures reach the middle 50-degree range this shallow activity will begin. If shallow water bass are yet active the bigger females can be found preparing for the spawning activity in depths of 8 – 12 feet. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits are a good choice for locating these bass. Anglers are advised to use a slow presentation during this season, as the bass will generally not chase a fast moving lure. Once bass are located, a jig is ideal for taking bigger bass. Jigs can be presented in shallow water by flipping and pitching or with a deep slow approach.

As the water temperatures reach the low 60’s anglers should try jerk baits and flukes for shallow water bass. Again, start with a slow presentation and speed up if the bass are active. Site fishing for spawning bass is popular among anglers at Patoka Lake because the water is generally clear in the spring. Anglers should always be looking for nests and bass when fishing in the shallow water along the shoreline. When fishing beds, shaky worms, tubes and lizards are always a good choice. Bass immediately released will generally return to the bed and little harm is done to the fishery.

Bass do not all spawn at the same time. The larger females can still be found in the 8 – 12 feet of water near spawning areas throughout the spawn. With water temperatures in the 60’s slow rolled spinnerbaits and crankbaits are a good lure choice to target these bigger bass.

When the water temperatures reach the middle 70-degree mark, the spawn, for the most part, is over. There may still be some males guarding nests but they will be few and far between. The females have moved off into the deeper water near the spawning areas. Crankbaits running in 10-foot depths are a productive presentation for the post-spawn females. In the clear water of Patoka Lake bluegill pattern crankbaits will be the best producers since the bass rely on the bluegill for a food source. However, if water is heavily stained to muddy fire tiger patters seem to work better. Also, chartreuse spinnerbaits with double gold blade are a great produced in dirty water conditions.

Once the water warms into the 80’s bass will hold in and near deep water. The river and creek channel ledges with deep water in close proximity can hold large schools of bass in tightly concentrated areas under these conditions. The areas most productive are channel swings close to the shoreline. These steep banks allow bass to move up to feed and back down to more comfortable water temperatures and oxygen levels. Anglers should concentrate on the ends of the channel swings where broken rock and timber is often present. The thermocline in Patoka Lake develops between 20 and 25 feet deep. The area just above this is often the most productive depth for summertime bass fishing. Large plastic worms of 10 – 13 inches will be productive on the larger bass holding near the thermocline.

Fall fishing on Patoka Lake can be phenomenal. Bass chase the sunfish, shad and golden shiners that are abundant in preparation for the cold winter ahead. The first indication for these circumstances is the large schools of baitfish swimming just below the surface. When the baitfishes start jumping above the surface it is due to predators chasing them. Shallow running crankbaits, flukes and top-water lures are most effective at this time. However, a lipless crankbait left to flutter below the schools of baitfish will produce the bigger bass. The bigger bass will suspend below the baitfish and take the injured baitfish that fall through the water column. Spoons like the Johnson Silver Minnow allowed to slowly descend after the cast is also very effective. The best way to find fall bass is to keep your eyes and ears open for feeding activity while on the water. Also, birds diving at the water will indicate where the baitfish schools are located.

Winter at Patoka Lake is quite slow for bass fishing. There are times when the lake freezes enough to allow ice fishing. When the water falls into the 40-degree range I use a jig and work it slowly along the bottom in and near deep water. My most productive presentation is a slow crawling motion to mimic a crayfish. The water is usually clear during the cold months and crayfish colored jigs are the top producers. The steep shorelines are the most productive during cold conditions.

Anglers that are not familiar with it often overlook Patoka Lake. It is located off the beaten path relative to other popular reservoirs. However, a trip to this lake is well worth the drive for an avid angler.