QUESTION: Hello, how are you doing? I have asked you questions in the past and your answers were really helpful so I am back for some more help. I am going to tell you a little information before I ask the questions. We were fishing in a lake named Philpott which is a deep clear lake. The air tempeture was about 68 and the water tempeture was 65. We are not sure if the lake has turned over for the fall or not. We were fishing using crank baits, texas rigged worms, drop shot rig, flukes and top water. We fished from about 11am until about 7pm. We only caught one bass on a grub. We had about three bites total on drop shot and one on fluke. What would your advice be to be more productive as the water cools? We have been fishing 10 to 20 feet of water. Should we fish shallower or deeper? The depth that we are fishing at is showing plenty of fish but we cannot get them to bite. I also fish a 2 acre pond, what is some advice about fishing it this time of year? Thanks for all of the help you have gave me and I appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions.
ANSWER: 'Morning Cameron!
Whew. That's a pretty extensive question. How about we break it down a bit.
To start off, remember this: Sometimes there is nothing you can do to get bass to bite. What will make you an above average bass angler will be making those times few and far between...If we had them totally figured out, we'd be fishing for something more challenging!
The only piece of info I wish wasn't missing is where you are. If you were in Michigan for instance vs Arizona, we'd have a better idea of "when" the "physical" fall would begin in that area. For example, here in So. CA, the spring spawn often begins and finishes a whole lot earlier in the year than many other places around the country. So that leaves us with the info you gave...which is not bad.
With the water temp at 65, I would guess that turnover has probably (depending on where the lake is located) not quite happened. For those others that may read this, "fall turnover" is when the surface temperature and most (not necessarily all) of the deeper water temperatures become equal. This allows the waters to mix and the feeding activity of most of the creatures in the body of water increases and they begin to feed more aggressively in preparation for winter, (when everything tends to slow down).
You said "deep and clear". How deep? If 20' is the max, you may have already missed the "turnover". In one of my favorite lakes, there is lots of 100' plus depths...a true and complete turnover will likely never occur because the temps at those depths may be well into the low 50's with the surface temps never quite getting that low...this perpetuates the thermoclines, or layers of water that are different temperatures and never allows them to break down and mix. By the way, I have elected to stop fishing over 40' or so...it just injures or kills too many bass (even when you use radical release techniques like "fizzing").
One other great piece of information you may have observed- Barometric pressure. Had a high pressure system just come in? If so, all that clear water would allow sunlight to penetrate deeper and force the fish to seek lower light levels for comfort and likely feed less aggressively (some call it "lockjaw"). But if a low pressure system was approaching and the pressure was dropping,the clouds would be more common and the light levels lower, bringing the bass up...( I won a little tournament with that info...a top-water bite in the dead of winter!) The lower light gives the bass more ability to ambush and therefore, they will often feed more heavily.
So given the conditions you faced, I probably would have tried the same techniques you did but I most certainly would have fished the 6lb fluorocarbon and mayyybeee the 4lb. (Eeesh, that will shorten your life span!). However, with each technique, remember a few things:
1- If the water is clear, you may need to go VERY light on your line or use fluorocarbon... and if you are running straight braid, be sure to use a fluoro leader that is light enough to get a few more bites.
2- Use the fly fisherman's mantra- "match the hatch". That grub fish may have been the key to that day...size, color, retrieve and placement, location of the fish as well as line type and test. (Then again, it may have been an impulse bite and the only one you were ever going to get!)
3- Remember that bass can be VERY "fin"ickey. If you were fishing the flukes, were they rigged texas-style and split-shotted? If so, you could have done a few things different like using a light wire hook that will allow the fluke to float slowly down each time you lift the bait on the retrieve therefore stimulating more bites. You also may have tried "stitching" the texas-rigged worms (moving the bait an inch at a time by slowly figure-eighting the line onto two of your fingers). Or, perhaps when you were drop-shotting, you might have very gently shaken the rod tip to allow the worm to undulate and NOT allow the weight to bounce (and distract or perhaps spook the fish).
4- Time of day might have also been important (funny, 11-7 is most often when I get out theses days too!), if it were bright and sunny, but I certainly would have hoped the catching would have picked up toward evening...(that low light thing again). I'm not a true believer in the solunar tables peak feeding times... with the exception of days that follow bright, moonlit nights...but they are worth checking them out.
5- When you are metering, look for the structure that has the fish "loosely" around it...they are more likely ready to or engaged in feeding. Those that are extremely tight to the structure are the tougher fish but eventually, they will still feed. Mark them and come back later. A long lost friend of mine named Joe Mazzurco commonly camped out on fish, knowing that eventually, they would begin to migrate and feed...
6- As for the pond...if the fish school at all, they may well move from place to place within the pond just like some fish in larger lakes move from their deep water sanctuary along a set migration route to their primary feeding areas and back each day. If the pond is small enough, they might be anywhere or everywhere. Big fish may be loners and dominate the best structure. I would focus on the thickest, nastiest cover that still had enough water and depth for the fish to escape effectively to another, perhaps deeper area. Ponds are great fun and pretty easy to learn every inch, every ambush point the fish use; every rock, bush, creek channel etc. and are a cool place to get some confidence with new techniques...grew up doing it! And by the way, that pond may have already turned if it has some depth or it may only striate (form thermoclines) in the heat of summer. Dang that brings back a hundred memories with me, my dad and my uncle fishing our local ponds until we couldn't see to make another cast!
So I'll wrap it up for now. I hope this helps...feel free to ask more! No detail should go unnoticed....
Best to you Cameron. Keep on fishin'!
Now it's time for lunch!
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: I appreciate your response and it is some good advice. I know you are right about sometime the bass will not bite but it is hard to accept that. It seems no matter how bad of a day we have someone have figured out how to get a limit in their boat. I didn't even think to tell you the state that we were fishing in, it is Virginia. This is the website to the lake http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing/waterbodies/display.asp?id=102
This lake is very deep in places I'm sure that in some places it is over 100 feet. We can be 15 feet off the bank and be in 30 foot of water. We normally sit in about 30 foot of water and fish the water that's about 15 to 20 foot.
I have heard of barometric pressure but don't quite know what it is and how it relates to fishing. I am going to do some research on it. When I do check it, do I want a high or low number.
We use 12 to 15 pound test line, why would using 6 pound test result in more bites? The bad thing about using 6 pound test is that we fish a lot of structure and I am sure we would have plenty of line breaks, but if it means more fish I am willing to give it a try.
When you talk about matching the hatch how do you do that on a lake. A fly fisherman can just turn a rock over in a stream but I am not sure how you can match the hatch at a lake.
I don't know if they were on that grub bite either because he had it texas rigged and when he was reeling it in that is when the bass hit the grub. He had tried swimming the grub earlier with no luck.
I never heard of stiching. I am going to have to look that technique up. Has it been very successful for you?
I like fishing in that two acre pond down the road from my house. I grew up fishing ponds but back then I just fished for anything that would hot a worm. I have only been bass fishing for about the last four or five years. A few years ago we could catch a lot of bass but something happened to the pond and it went down about 25-40 percent. While it was down that low you could not hardly catch a fish. Grass started growing and when they fixed the problem and the pond filled back up it is still hard to catch a fish. There seem to be more crappie than anything in there now. Do you have any idea what happened and what maybe I can do to catch more bass. I use to kill that pond with a weightless wacky worm but now it is hard to get them to hit anything.
Thanks for all of your help! I really enjoy talking about fishing with you.
By the way that was awesome how you won that tournament in the middle of the winter on top water. I am sure know one ever thought of doing that. That had to be an exciting day.
Huge follow-up! So I'm going to break it down the best I can.
First off, you mentioned that it was hard to accept that sometimes, bass just won't bite. No matter how much you learn about Bass behavior and techniques with which to catch them, you ARE DEFINITELY going to find fish that simply will not bite. The idea that I'm encouraging is that the more you DO know and the more techniques you DO master, the LESS often you will encounter a situation where you cannot encourage them to bite. Keep in mind, I am NOT telling you to give up on a concentration of fish...but you will have many frustrating days where the fish you have found are just not feeding. These fish will EVENTUALLY begin to feed and you need to make the judgement to either sit on them until they do or move on and check on them later. So you are right...someone on the lake is catching them but a concentration of fish on one point may be feeding actively and on another, a relatively short distance away, will just not bite.
Also, here's something interesting to consider: When we are using electronics to locate "fish", you have to use your knowledge of bass behavior to increase the chances that the "fish" you have found on the meter are actually bass. I have seen an interesting situation a few times, one most memorable, where I was metering fish suspended over a long point and apparently actively feeding on a perfect ball of shad down about 30 feet. These fish showed great marks and were, based on all of my experience, bass, feeding on that bait ball. I just could not get them to bite with ANY technique. I finally tied on a Hopkins shorty spoon and began vertically jigging at the feeding depth...Bam... nailed one! Good fish! It was a 4 pounder...a CHANNEL CAT! My buddy and I proceeded to land 3 more between 4 and 6 pounds...not a bass in the bunch...(But great dinner!). So you see, all may not be what we think no matter how certain we may be.
Most of the waters I fish, (impoundments/reservoirs) are steep and deep. So you have to find the subtle differences that end up holding active fish...for instance, on a long section of shoreline with large rocks continuing out into the depths broken by a section of shoreline with small rocks, followed by large rock again...the "break" or the spot the rock changed is more likely to hold the fish. This will hopefully lead you to a pattern or your finding more places in the lake with the same features, also holding fish.
What is Barometric Pressure? It is one of the MOST important considerations in bass fishing. This is especially true in the deep water lakes because the bass tend to spend a lot of time at greater depths in what used to be called the "deep water sanctuary".
Barometric pressure is the pressure of the air pushing down on everything around us including the water. Dropping pressure,(when a "low" pressure system comes in), makes bass feed far more aggressively because it usually means: 1) Clouds- They reduce light in the water and create more of a more ambush friendly environment for the bass. 2) Might mean rain. Bass nearly always feed better when it rains. 3) Low pressure can often mean wind on the leading edge of the front. This rejuvenates the lake by stirring up the surface and putting more oxygen into the water...windy points and shorelines can be awesome in wind! The negative thing about low pressure is that it can also bring VERY cold temperatures and in shallow lakes and ponds a sudden drop in the temperature of the water will often create the "lockjaw" situation. Fishing a "falling barometer" is usually better than fishing a rising one. There is a bunch of other things to know about Barometric pressure and fishing but that is a good start.
As for line test? Yep, you are gonna break more fish off with lighter line but the fish can't see the lighter stuff as well and you will get far more bites...hopefully you will be able to land more fish because you hooked more fish and it will prove that you actually caught more on the lighter line. I rarely fish over 12lb. and most often 8 and 10...just not in the deep, heavy cover...this is where I'd opt for the thin-for-the-strength braided lines and bump up the line test.
"Matching the hatch" is not a term used in bass fishing very often but the meaning is the same: Fish a lure that resembles the type and size of food the bass are feeding on like crawfish, shad, sticklebacks, shiners etc.
As for stitching? It works great when things are tough and you know where the fish are. It is a VERY slow presentation...six, eight minutes per cast!
Hard to say what's going on in that pond but when the bass get stressed, they will feed less often. Try the crack of dawn and twilight when you can barely see to cast...that might just do it. Go deep into the grass pockets if you can; reduce your line test and slow it down. Also, try "stealthy" techniques like flipping (if you are putting a boat on the pond) or feathering a cast to reduce the splash and sound on the entry of the lure.
So there you have it! Forgive me for taking so long to answer back. I'd like to say I was fishing but sometimes it is just life getting in the way.