Shade can pinpoint bass and make the easy to catch. Once the sun gets high and you’re morning bite has died, take a look at shade, you might like what you see. In the early part of the bass fishing season, when water temperatures are warming up, and bass are comfortable being shallow, anglers get the bass fishing fever. Visions of getting to the water at day break and catching a trophy on the first cast or before the sun breaks the horizon, prevent many anglers from sleeping the night before.
What if I suggested you’re better off sleeping late and waiting for the sun to get on the water? Many would think I’m crazy and just ignore the notion. But, let’s explore a concept and theory of mine. Shade is an anglers best friend when bass are shallow. Lack of light, while a productive time to fish, actually makes it more difficult to catch bass, especially large bass.
In the early morning light, or evening after the sun falls behind the horizon, bass roam. Bass are searching for food and use the concealment of dark (low light) to allow them to prowl to find prey. At this point, you have to use baits and tactics that allow you to cover a lot of water very quickly, yet slowly enough to attract and convince a large bass to attack your offering. If you find the right flat, point, ridge, or drop off you can load the boat because bass can be concentrated on these areas. But which flat, or which ridge, and if you’re in a warming trend during the spring, bass don’t relate to these types of structures when feeding. When the light gets low, bass scatter along the banks or in the shallows (relative to the waters your fishing) and prowl for food. All kinds of things are happening in the spring when the water is warming. You have bass spawning, then the shad spawn and finally the bream or bluegill spawn; until the water gets into the upper 70’s to low 80’s bass are comfortable in shallow waters. Once the water gets too warm, bass start moving out to deeper haunts on structure.
When the alarm clock goes off, if you really think that snooze button is a good idea, then don’t be afraid to use it. Getting to the lake after the sun rises is still okay. Also, don’t plan on leaving the water after the sun gets up, you might be missing some of the easiest catching of the day. Shade pin points bass for us and makes them easier to catch. We can cover a lot of water and make sure our baits are in the strikes zones nearly 100% of the time.
A Bass’s vision is similar to humans in a few ways. Think about this for a minute. Drive down a street at night and look at the houses with lights on. You can see everyone in them, what they are doing, and clearly enough to know what color or type of clothes they are wearing. On the flip side, those same people can tell your car is going down the street, but they can’t see you, much less know what kind of vehicle your driving nor its color. Another way to explore this, tonight once it’s dark, turn the lights off in a room in your house, back out of the room five steps and look into the room, what do you see. Now go into the dark room and look out, what do you see?
In the 1980’s, you could read article after article in various publications that said bass seek out shade because the sun hurts their eyes. Not having eyelids, their only options to find comfort was to move into the shade or move into deep water where the light couldn’t hurt them. If you spent any time at all on the water just looking, you’ll notice that bass frequently just cruise the bank lines, especially in the spring. If being in sunlight is painful do you really think bass would be there? What about bass chasing schools of shad on the surface, if sun hurt their eyes, would this happen?
Shade provides concealment for bass. This gives bass a hiding place from predators, while at the same time, allowing them to be predator themselves. Using the same principle of driving down a street at night, bass use this to feed during the day. With their eyes in the shade, looking out into the vast lake, they can see every movement that is happening within reach. Once prey presents its self, the bass not only have the visual advantage, but also have the element of surprise.
In the early season, the sun is my best friend. It’s warm and positions the bass so I don’t have to work so hard to catch them. If the water temperature is less than 77 degrees, you can bet you’ll find me fishing water less than 10 feet deep. You can also bet that I’ll be fishing objects that create shade, the darker the shade the more and larger bass you can catch.
Standing trees, laydowns, large rocks, matted vegetation, lily pads are all things that create shade. Instead of working an entire bank line, after the sun comes up, you can concentrate your efforts on specific areas.
In the evening, once the shade starts on the west banks, be the first to start fishing it. When shade first starts developing on the bank lines bass will start cruising in it. While it’s a narrow band still, you can concentrate your efforts very effectively.
I spent a lot of time recording cloud cover conditions this spring (it’s over for us in the south) and there is a definite correlation to bass position and my effectiveness in catching them. When the sun was bright, bass were easier to pinpoint, and pattern; catch ratio was high. When the cloud cover was thick, bass were much more difficult to catch on any specific pattern.
I want to close on a final thought. A good friend of mine and guide on a local lake had the opportunity to fish with Kevin Van Dam for a photo shoot for Bush Beer. Many of you may have seen the commercials, if there are cypress trees in the back ground that happened on one of my home lakes. My friend took KVD up in a small bayou. In that bayou, they saw bass nosed up under small limbs and laydowns. Obviously for these two, catching them was not a problem. According to KVD, those bass believed they were completely hidden, because their eyes were shielded. He believes a bass isn’t smart enough to know his whole body isn’t concealed. I have to wonder if those bass were not using the limbs and small laydowns, like we do a visor on our hats! Just trying to shed some light on shade!
Next time you’re on the water don’t let the sun beat you down. Use it to your advantage and put some extra bass in the boat.
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