Sunday, February 13, 2011

Making Sense of It All

In bass fishing there is a saying, "It all makes sense once you start catching fish".  Bass fishing to me is the exciting process of putting together a live-action puzzle.  Every piece of the puzzle is a variable.  Most variables are constantly changing and in motion: weather conditions, sunlight penetration, fish behavior, fish location, and boat position.  Add to these factors the vast number of fishing lures that an angler has to choose from and you almost get a sense of overwhelming odds against the angler. 

Figuring it all out makes a fishing trip worth something special.  It is only after you catch a fish or two does the puzzle start to make sense.  Take for instance my last tournament experience.  The weekend before the tournament the water was warm and bass were setting up to spawn.  I had found some bass on shallow-water beds and I planned on catching them in the event.  Nevertheless, a cold front the night before the tournament dropped the air temperature 20 degrees and altered my day.  After I ran across the lake in 30 degree morning air temperatures the first thing I had to do was thaw out my hands and feet.  This Florida angler is not fond of winter weather! 

The harsh cold front ended up lowering the water temperature in my spawning area over ten degrees and caused my bass to leave the beds.  On most Florida lakes you can find the bass repositioned somewhere nearby, a dropoff or deep hole, but not on the Harris Chain of Lakes.  Harris bass flat disappear! 

After fishing for nearly three hours without a bite I finally decided to change my approach and leave the shallow water behind me.  I went back to a fall/winter fishing pattern where my bass keyed in on shad. One of the best lures that I use to mimic shad is a lipless crankbait.

An hour into my new fishing pattern and I caught a two-pound bass. The fish swallowed the crankbait and gave me a clue that I did everything right to fool that fish: the right color, right lure speed, the right fishing depth.  That single hit reminded me of a similar fishing trip and put another piece of the puzzle together.  When my next bass was a four-pounder I knew that I had figured something out. The only problem was that this last fish did not eat the lure well; in fact, it was only hooked with one barb of the treble hooks.  That told me something was wrong with my presentation or the fish-feeding period was slowing down.  A few casts later I missed a two-pound bass that swam up to eat my lure just when I was lifting it out of the water to make another cast. The conditions were changing and I lost the piece of the puzzle that told me lure color and presentation. 

Regardless of this loss I maintained the same lure and presentation until the event was over.  After landing eight bass and missing three I felt my performance was acceptable but not great. I felt confident about putting some of the puzzle together and giving me a chance to win, but I never figured out the other changes I needed to make to get the fish to bite later in the day when they quit feeding so good.  

I walked away from the tournament in seventh place and feeling good about the experience that I had gained in adapting to changing cold-front conditions. Maybe next time I will put enough of the puzzle together to win.

1 comment:

Mainer said...

As is often said and that is why it is called fishing and not catching. The whole figure out the patern thing has fascinated me for the past 20 years. Any number of anglers can go on a body of water and fish a particular spot because a known fish or number of fish are known to be there but let another angler beat them there and they are flat out sunk. These are the guys that generally pull early and leave because they do not see fishing as a broadbased mental exercise but one of simple fishing oportunities.

Had these anglers been thinking globably they would simply have moved to another area with similar conditions and tried to recreate what they had found that made them excited with the first spot. But not thinking through what they were doing just makes them frustrated.

Now you were obviously thinking pretty globally here. That some piece to the new puzzle never did show up does not denigrate what you did figure out. I would much rather have the day you did than a couple of tourneys my partner and I had last year where we ended the day sorry assed and fish lacking and still can't figure out why?

Cold fronts suck, back sides of a high with high and bright and the wrong wind have ruined many a fishing day. I like your approach to go out and strain water with a lipless as it is one of my fall backs too. Here is an interesting possibility. I am suspecting you were most likely throwing some thing like a 1/2 ounce bait. Conventional wisdom generally would say maybe to have tried smaller. Have you thought of going bigger......maybe much bigger? I have seen a number of times when the bite on a 1/2 ounce just died and I was reasonably sure there were still plenty of fish in the area. Color didn't seem to help and changing speed only made things marginally better. Going smaller has for me not been the answer. I will then opt for a bigger bait and more agressive presentation. I can't imagine our clear water Maine bass can be any more finicky than your fish. Just a thought. Did you perhaps think of a crankbait or would bottom grass have ruled it out?